Compensation for personal injuries

26 May 2014

The Injuries Board was set up in 2004 as the independent statutory body to receive all claims made in the State and to assess (with limited exceptions) appropriate compensation for personal injuries, whether caused in an accident on the road, at work or at some public or other location, where the accident was caused or contributed to by another road user, employer or occupier of lands or premises.

The primary motivation for setting up the Injuries Board was the perceived high cost of claims for compensation for personal injuries through the courts and judicial system. The Injuries Board continues to operate successfully, particularly in applications for compensation where the personal injuries suffered are less serious.

Persons who have suffered personal injuries nonetheless continue, for a number of very important reasons, to take legal advice following accidents, particularly when their injuries are serious and they continue, subject to Authorisation by the Board, to sue for damages for personal injuries in the courts. Some of these reasons may be as follows:

- the need for assistance writing a letter before action within 2 months of the accident, to comply with s. 12 Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004;

- the time bar ticking – because claims for compensation for personal injuries continue to be limited by strict and relatively short time limits, which if missed will prevent injured persons from claiming any compensation. This is particularly relevant to persons injured at work through their employers’ fault but who fear for their employment if they make a claim for compensation;

- assistance with Injuries Board applications – while straightforward on paper, there are many pitfalls to be aware of in making an application to the Injuries Board, who’s job is to receive and assess claims, not to protect the interests of applicants;

- responding to offers of compensation made by Insureds or Insurers before application is made to or assessment by the Injuries Board – Respondents continue to try to settle claims before injured persons have submitted an application to the Injuries Board because experience has shown them that they can minimise the compensation they pay out if they can reach a settlement with the injured person before an application is made to the Injuries Board.*;

- obtaining and interpreting expert medical or other opinions and reports;

- advice on the adequacy and appropriateness of offers and Assessments before settling claims or accepting awards*;

- advice as to the circumstances in which other road users, employers and occupiers may be held responsible by the courts where Insureds or Insurers decline Assessment by the Injuries Board or do not accept Assessments made;

- issuing proceedings and running claims in the courts where the Injuries Board has Authorised proceedings for whatever reason and ensuring that all necessary information is gathered and available to prove claims, allow the Courts to determine liability and damages and maximise the compensation received by the injured persons as appropriate to their injuries;

- advice as to the amount of compensation appropriate to and likely to be assessed and / or awarded for a personal injury or injuries suffered in a particular case, by reference to the Book of Quantum and recent court awards;

- advice and assistance in the assessment and projection of out-of-pocket expenses to date and into the future, in particular relating to loss of earning, vocational rehabilitation, personal or nursing care etc.

- advice regarding claims for compensation for personal injuries in the form of psychological injuries, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder etc. which are expressly excluded from the remit of the Injuries Board;

- advice regarding claims for compensation for personal injuries suffered following a medical accident or other medical professional negligence, also expressly excluded from the Injuries Board process.

Some recent significant developments in our system of compensating injured persons include the recent increase in the jurisdiction of the Circuit Court, which may now award damages up to €60,000 for personal injuries and a pilot scheme in more than 30 hospitals to make open disclosure to patients when medical accidents have occurred and injury has resulted. The open disclosure policy is informed by very positive experience in the USA where similar policies have significantly reduced the length of time taken to compensate injured patients and also the cost of claims to the clinical indemnity insurance industry.

* In contentious business other than debt collection, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.