Introduction: The O’Byrne Letter
Under general circumstances, when there is only one defendant in a personal injuries compensation claim, a solicitor would send the defendant in question a letter of claim; however, when there is more than one defendant, the letter of claim becomes ”The O’Byrne Letter”. The main focus is to address the issue of liability as between the various respondents involved.
A plaintiff is required by law to serve a written notice to the alleged wrongdoer (no matter how many respondents are involved) within two months of the date the accident occurred. Included in a standard letter of claim would be a summary of the nature of the negligent action that the defendant is alleged to have committed.
Contents of the O’Byrne Letter
The O’Byrne Letter contains the standard details that would be found in any letter of claim under normal circumstances – the name and address of the plaintiff, for example, and brief details of the accident in question. However, it must also handle the following issues, outlined below: –
- It should be stated that the accident was the result of the wrongdoing of one or another or the potential defendants, but that the plaintiff cannot say who is to blame.
- It must request that the recipient of the O’Byrne letter admits liability within an assigned time period.
- It must request that the recipient suggest compensation for the plaintiff.
- A warning should be issued that in the instance of no admission of liability and/or suggestions for the plaintiff’s compensation, an application for assessment will the made to the Injuries Board Ireland against the named potential defendants.
- Another warning should be issued that if it becomes necessary to initiate court action against all of the letter recipients, the letter will be used as evidence to fix the unsuccessful defendant with expenses that should be paid to the defendants who have not been found liable.
- The recipient should be asked for Indemnity for the costs of the unnecessary or aborted court proceedings against any of the other potential defendants who will not partake in the Injuries Board assessment or who reject the amount assessed.
- A final warning should state that without the Indemnity, the plaintiff will seek to recover these expenses in separate court proceedings and that the O’Byrne letter will be used to fix the negligent party with paying the expenses of such proceedings.
The plaintiff may also ask for a written undertaking that any belongings involved in the accident will not be modified, altered or improved by the recipient before it has been examined by a witness of expertise. When applicable, this request would be accompanied with the advice that the claimant will make an application to court for the necessary interlocutory order and for the reimbursement of the expenses for such an application, should the recipient fail to acknowledge such an undertaking.
It must be said that where there are several recipients of an O’Byrne letter and it is not yet fully known who was “most” at fault; this is not a matter for the plaintiff to prove or even debate over. The plaintiff’s solicitor will recommend that this issue lies only with the various respective defendants to decide amongst themselves.
If you have been involved in an accident that features more than one potential defendant and believe that you may have a valid personal injury claim, it would be in your best interests to consult with an experienced solicitor at the first possible moment.