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Richard Lewis

Professor Richard Lewis

Emeritus Professor

School of Law and Politics


In 2014 Oxford University awarded Richard Lewis a Doctorate of Civil Law, one of the two most senior degrees it can confer. The DCL is customarily conferred on visiting Heads of State and senior academics for "exceptionally insightful and distinctive publications that contain significant and original contributions to the study of law or politics in general." Prior to this in 2007 Richard was the first person to receive from Cardiff University its senior degree of Doctor of Laws, the LLD. After 46 years as a Faculty member, he retired from Cardiff in 2020 and was then appointed an emeritus professor.

Richard was educated at West Mon School, Pontypool, and Lincoln College, Oxford. He obtained a first-class degree from Oxford University and completed the Law Society examinations. He then joined the solicitors firm of Norton Rose in the City of London. However, he interrupted his employment to join the Faculty at Northwestern University in Chicago. He never returned to practice. In 1974 he returned to Wales and, apart from further periods of time spent in North America, he stayed in Cardiff for the rest of his career. He saw the Law School grow into one of the largest and most important in the country.

Richard continues to publish extensively in the areas of accident compensation, and public and private insurance. He is the author of the award-winning book, Structured Settlements: The Law and Practice. This deals with the payment of damages by means of a pension instead of the traditional lump sum. Previously he wrote a book dealing with Compensation for Industrial Injury. His book Deducting Benefits from Damages for Personal Injury, published by the Oxford University Press, examined the relationships between different compensation schemes and was founded upon his previous work on insurance and social security law.

He has contributed many articles to the leading academic law journals and is the author of more than 140 publications. He remains an active editor of the Journal of Law and Society which he helped establish shortly after its foundation in 1974.

At Cardiff, he directed the teaching of the second-year foundation course on the law of tort. Keen that students should study legal rules in wider context, he emphasises the effect of the law in practice. Concentrating only upon what judges say is too narrow a focus; it can be more important to discover what lawyers actually do and how people really experience the legal system.

Richard's more recent work includes analyses of 'compensation culture.' He was the principal UK investigator in a European project which empirically examined how the personal injury system operated in practice. This produced several publications, including an article in Legal Studies which examines the tactics used by lawyers when negotiating settlements of injury cases. He gave the ‘Current Legal Problems’ lecture at University College London where he considered whether the personality of those involved in litigation affects the outcome.

On the adjoining page there is a list of the main publications, some with direct links to the texts. Publications can also be found on the social science research network and on Research Gate as well as Google Scholar with some lectures on You Tube.


My main research has been into the structure and working of the system of compensation for personal injury.

This has involved examining the law and practice of claims not only for damages in tort, but also for social security benefits. Although these are distinct sources of compensation, involving different legal traditions, personnel and practice, they share certain features. Their relationship and relative importance has previously attracted only limited attention.

The focus of this research has been in five areas:

  • the compensation provided by the state under the industrial injuries scheme
  • the form of the compensation and, in particular, the use of pension payments as opposed to lump sums
  • the interrelationship of compensation systems and, especially the deduction of collateral benefits from damages for personal injury
  • the economics involved in the assessment of damages
  • the importance of insurance and the insurance industry to compensation systems.

The other broad area into which research has been conducted relates to the law and operation of commerce. Of particular interest has been the extent to which law is used in practice in order to regulate commercial activity. Legal sanctions can be contrasted with other, less formal methods of control. Studies have been published of the limited use made of the law by the state (in dealing with undesirable business practices), by businessmen (in relation to regulating contractual relationships within the building industry), and by insurers (in adhering to their own internal agreements rather than the law).

The different areas of the research have often employed socio-legal techniques. That is, the legal rules have been set in their wider social, political and economic contexts, and analyses have been made of the use and effect of the rules in practice.

Empirical studies have been made of the operation of the legal system. In addition, close contact has been developed with those at the cutting edge of personal injury litigation and social security practice. Work has not therefore been confined to traditional doctrinal legal scholarship which focuses upon the rules produced by appellate court decisions. It has extended beyond the use of library sources, and encompassed the operation of the legal system in practice so as to reflect the experience of practitioners and others who come into contact with the law. The work reflects the philosophy that it may be as important to discover what lawyers do as much as to analyse what judges say. Although such an approach has become more common in recent years, it remains the work of a minority of legal scholars.

Reviews of the Books Published:

‘Deducting Benefits from Damages for Personal Injury’

“….[T]here has been a gross imbalance in legal scholarship; writing and research greatly overemphasises the issue of liability whereas to a practitioner quantum is usually the more important question. Over the years, Richard Lewis has done much, almost single-handedly, to redress that imbalance, and this book represents another major contribution to that distinguished scholarship.” (Medical Law Review) (Professor Michael Jones, former Head of the Law School at the University of Liverpool)

“Professor Lewis plugs a gap which urgently needed to be plugged, and he does it thoroughly and readably…. The result is a book which is immediately, and is likely to remain, the definitive text on the subject…. Everything is here. This is not a remote, ivory tower view of the area, but brings the rigour of the ivory tower to bear on real practical problems.” (Solicitors Journal) (Charles Foster, barrister and Recorder in the Crown Court)

“Lewis’s book is the first comprehensive analysis of the scheme. It is well worth the wait … a rare addition to the legal literature.” (Journal of Social Security Law) (Professor Nick Wikeley former Head of the School of Law at Southampton University, and now a judge of the Upper Tribunal)

‘Structured Settlements: The Law and Practice’

“… I gladly commend for its learning, its style, its interest and its timely contribution to developments in the technique of compensation.” (Preface) (Sir Christopher Holland of the Queen’s Bench Division of the High Court)

“Richard Lewis is to be congratulated on collecting together, and coherently mapping out, a mass of practical information. The result is a socio-legal study of the highest order which sets out the legal rules in the context of how they are actually used in practice. The empirical evidence for the work comes from a wide range of sources which reveal the depth of the author’s research.... This book is intended to and will appeal to a wide readership. No-one seriously interested in personal injury litigation can afford to be without it.” (International Journal of Insurance Law)
(Professor Andrew Burrows of Oxford University, and former Law Commissioner)

‘Compensation for Industrial Injury’

“… an invaluable contribution to the literature.” (Industrial Law Journal) (Professor David Lewis of Middlesex University Business School)

“A complex scheme is clearly presented as a living, working entity.… A valuable work, which can readily be recommended to all concerned with social security and accident compensation.” (Cambridge Law Journal) (Professor David Bonner of the Faculty of Law, Leicester University)