Although we think of personal injury compensation as being a modern day phenomenon, the problem can actually be traced back as far as the late ninth century.
There wouldn’t have been any personal injury solicitors around in the days when King Alfred the Great set out laws to tackle personal injury claims, but nevertheless, provision was made to compensate those who had been injured at the hand of another.
The Wessex king decreed that if anyone knocked out somebody’s front tooth, he should compensate the victim with the sum of eight shillings.
Knocking somebody’s eye out was a very serious offence for which the perpetrator would need to pay compensation of 66 shillings, six pence plus a third of a penny.
Dog bites were also a problem back in the ninth century and the owner of a vicious canine would be fined the princely sum of six shillings the first time his hound bit or tore at a man.
These sums do not sound much to us, and in fact people born after decimalisation will have no concept of what a shilling was. In fact a pound was made up of 20 shillings, or 240 pennies.
We cannot give an accurate comparison between ninth century fines and those used today. However, in the tenth century, a horse would cost around 10 shillings, two pennies would have got you a goat and the dog bite mentioned above would have cost you the same as the price of six sheep!