Personal injury awards in Ireland are comprised of two elements – General Damages and Special Damages. General damages are compensation for the physical or psychological trauma you experience when you have been injured in an event for which you were not wholly to blame. How much general damages you receive is loosely determined by the Book of Quantum – a publication which lists a selection of injuries, and gives them a financial value based on the extent of your injuries and how long they may take to heal.
Special damages compensate you for any out of pocket expenses you may have incurred due to your personal injury. These can range from the cost of attending hospital or medical centre to receive treatment to the expense of redesigning your home to cater for a family member who has had a catastrophic accident and is now wheelchair bound. Special damages also cover any loss of earnings you may have experienced due to your injury, and can extend from a few days missed work to a lifetime of lost income.
The Book of Quantum
The Book of Quantum was published in 2004 to act as a guide to the Injuries Board Ireland’s assessments of personal injury awards. It is not absolutely comprehensive, but follows the World Health Organisation’s International Classification of Diseases (Version 9) with the simplified structure of body region/body part/ injury type. The “book” admits that it is not a medical dictionary, but suggests ranges of personal injury compensation for the most common personal injury claims depending on whether the injury is “substantially recovered”, “significant and/or ongoing” or a “serious and permanent condition”.
Despite claiming that the Book of Quantum is not rigid and that assessments are calculated on an individual basis, the Injuries Board Ireland has come under some criticism for its reliance on it. Claims have been made by high profile judiciary (Mr. Justice Budd – McFadden v. Weir  IEHC 473) that it fails to take into an account individual’s personal circumstances and certainly, if your quality of life has deteriorated due to another’s negligence, this is one important factor that should be considered in the calculation of personal injury awards.
Personal Injury Awards and the Injuries Board Ireland
Any personal injury compensation claim that is submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland has to be supported by a medical form which describes your injury and the clinical effect it has had on you. The Injuries Board Ireland may also require you to attend an independent medical examination to ascertain the extent to which your injuries have healed before assessing your personal injury claim. Your application should be accompanied by any accident report from the Gardai or an employer which clearly identifies who was responsible for your injuries.
People claiming for special damages to be included in their personal injury awards should also submit receipts for expenses they have incurred and financial statements to support claims for loss of earnings – either current or future. In the event of a catastrophic injury which requires wholesale changes to one’s lifestyle, estimates of any work that needs to be done should be attached to the personal injury claim, although this may well require verification before an assessment of personal injury compensation is concluded.
Litigation and Personal Injury Awards
The Injuries Board Ireland will only assess personal injury compensation claims in which the question of fault is not at issue. Therefore, it will decline to assess any claim for personal injury compensation which involves medical negligence or where liability is in dispute, and issue an Authorisation for you to pursue your claim for personal injury compensation through the courts. It will also defer a personal injury claim to the courts if the two parties involved in the claim fail to agree on the amount assessed.
Personal injury awards which require litigation will be presented at one of three courts depending on the potential value of the personal injury claim. District Courts will hear cases with a value of up to €6,348.69, while claims up to a value of €38,092.14 are resolved in the Circuit Courts and those which may have a more significant outcome are heard in the High Court. You will need legal representation for a court hearing, and it is the role of a personal injury solicitor to guide claimants through the various legal processes to ensure adequate and fair personal injury awards are made.
Children and Personal Injury Awards
You will also need the services of a solicitor for any personal injury awards involving children. Children are exempt from the restrictions playing on claimants by the Statute of Limitations – a law which only allows two years from the “date of knowledge” in which to make a personal injury claim – but any personal injury awards they receive have to be approved by a judge before payment can be made.
Under the Statute of Limitations, children have until two years from their eighteenth birthdays in which to make a personal injury compensation claim. They can make one at any time before they reach the age of majority, but have to be represented by a parent or guardian acting as their “next friend”. Your personal injury solicitor will be able to advise you of other distinctions in the law when children are involved in personal injury awards.
Solicitors and Personal Injury Awards
Irrespective of whether you anticipate that litigation in court will be required for your personal injury claim, it is always in your best interests to discuss your case with a personal injury solicitor as soon as possible after you have been diagnosed with an injury. Your health must come first in such circumstances, as no amount of personal injury compensation will ever make up for a lifelong disability which could have been prevented by timely medical intervention but, once you have started to receive treatment it is recommended that you discuss your entitlement to personal injury compensation with a solicitor.
Personal injury solicitors will often provide a clear and impartial point of view at a time when emotions can be running high and you may be concerned about your future financial security. They will also be able to submit the application to the Injuries Board Ireland on your behalf to ensure that your personal injury awards are maximised, and represent you in negotiations with the negligent party’s insurance company in order to achieve a satisfactory compensation settlement – sometimes before the Injuries Board Ireland has completed its assessment.
Personal Injury Awards Summary
Personal injuries awards in Ireland are comprised of both general damages and special damages. It is important that you receive your entitlement to both sets of damages in order to avoid being undercompensated. Although the Book of Quantum provides a list of injury “values”, it is only intended to be used as a guide, so ensure that any personal injury compensation assessment takes the impact on your quality of life into account.
Personal injury awards in cases where liability is not an issue can be dealt with by the Injuries Board Ireland, but in all other scenarios must be litigated in court or resolved by negotiation. Personal injury awards involving children have their own set of procedures and, if you would like the best possible advice after you have sustained a loss or injury in an accident for which you were not wholly to blame, it is your best interests to speak with an experienced personal injury solicitor.