There was once a time when personal injury cases in Ireland had to be pursued in the courts of law, with long delays for the victims of negligence and expensive legal fees to be accounted for. That scenario changed with the adoption of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act (2003) which established the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (now re-named as the Injuries Board Ireland) and revolutionised the way in which personal injury cases in Ireland are processed.
Now, instead of a wait in excess of three years to have a personal injury claim resolved, the average length of time most claims for personal injury compensation take is a little over six months. Furthermore, there is a process in place which most people can understand and, although there is a risk of not receiving your full entitlement of personal injury compensation, the procedures for many types of personal injury cases can be completed without legal representation.
Eligibility for Personal Injury Cases
In order to qualify for personal injury compensation, you must have suffered a physical or psychological injury due to the negligence of somebody who had a duty of care towards you. In the most common personal injury cases – road traffic accidents – every driver, cyclist and pedestrian has a “duty of care” towards other road users, and if they cause an accident by their lack of care, you are entitled to make a personal injury compensation claim against them.
Some personal injury cases are less straightforward, and those revolving around any form of professional negligence still have to be litigated in court. The reason for this is that proof is required that the negligent actions of the professional involved (or lack of actions) were avoidable at the time and attributable to negligence when the personal injury was sustained. Therefore, in a personal injury claim against a dentist who extracts a tooth needlessly, you (or your solicitor) have to show to the court that his actions were unnecessary and that you experienced pain and suffering as a result.
Claiming Compensation in Personal Injury Cases
The process for claiming compensation in personal injury cases where negligence is not in doubt involves making an application to the Injuries Board Ireland for an assessment of your injuries. Except in the case of children, your application can be made online or by post (children’s personal injury cases have to be handled by post only) and has to be supported by a medical report and accident report where available.
Once the Injuries Board has received the consent of the negligent party to assess your claim for personal injury compensation, you may be required to attend an independent medical examination to assess the extent of your injuries and how long they will take to heal. Thereafter, the Injuries Board Ireland issues you and the negligent party with a Notice of Assessment which – if you both agree on the amount assessed – is followed by a Notice to Pay and your personal injury compensation claim is resolved.
Contributory Negligence and Personal Injury Cases
If however, the negligent party denies their responsibility for your injuries, or claims that you were partially responsible for them, the Injuries Board Ireland will issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your personal injury claim in court. Examples of how somebody could accuse you of contributing to your own injuries would be if you failed to wear a seatbelt when you were injured in a road traffic accident or worked longer in a hazardous environment than your employer’s health and safety policy said you should (your employer would still be partially negligent inasmuch as he failed to provide supervision).
Contributory negligence may not only relate to any involvement you had in your own accident, but could be where more than one party is responsible for your injuries. An example would be where a car with no rear lights has braked sharply in front of you, causing to you pull up quicker than you might normally with adequate warning. The car travelling behind you fails to stop in time and rear-ends your car, causing you to suffer a whiplash injury. Even though the car behind you has caused your injury, it was the vehicle in front which was responsible for the rear-end collision.
Litigation and Personal Injury Cases
Litigation, or court action, in personal injury cases happens quite a lot. All professional negligence personal injury claims have to be litigated in court as well as personal injury cases involving contributory negligence and those in which there is a dispute about how much personal injury compensation you have been assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland.
As soon as you first contact a personal injury solicitor, he will compile the strongest possible personal injury case on your behalf in order that he can avoid litigation wherever possible by negotiating with the negligent party’s insurance company. Sometimes this may result in you receiving a fair and adequate compensation settlement long before the Injuries Board has made their assessment, however in some personal injury cases litigation is unavoidable.
Special Damages and Personal Injury Cases
One of the most important elements of personal injury cases is special damages. These are the damages you receive for “out-of-pocket” expenses which are directly attributable to your injury. In more “straightforward” personal injury cases, these special damages might account for any medical expenses and possibly the cost of alternate transport if you are unable to drive. In more complex personal injury cases, special damages could account for years of lost income, the adaption of a home to accommodate somebody who is now confined to a wheelchair, or plastic surgery to disguise the scars left by your injury.
Special damages can make a significant difference to how much personal injury compensation you receive and personal injury cases need not be a catastrophic for the special damages to add up. You need to be sure that you are getting your full entitlement to special damages when you make a personal injury compensation claim, and this is why 90 per cent of people in personal injury cases in Ireland choose to use the services of a personal injury solicitor.
Children and Personal Injury Cases
You will certainly need the assistance of a personal injury solicitor when making a personal injury claim which involves a child. All compensation settlements in personal injury cases which involve a child have to be approved by judge before payment can be made – irrespective of whether the personal injury case has been resolved by the Injuries Board Ireland or by negotiation.
Personal injury cases involving children are also exempt from the Statute of Limitations in Ireland – the law which restricts the time in which a personal injury claim can be made after the “date of knowledge” you have sustained an injury. However, in any claim for personal injury compensation in which the child is the claimant, they have to be represented by a parent or guardian acting as their next friend.
Personal Injury Cases Summary
There are a few personal injury cases that you can handle by yourself now that the Injuries Board Ireland is in place to make the process for personal injury cases much simpler. However, to be confident that you receive an adequate amount of personal injury compensation, you must have sustained an injury in an accident for which there is no dispute over liability and have an accurate idea about how much compensation you are entitled to receive.
At a time when you may still be experiencing pain from your injury, or are emotionally upset because of an injury that has occurred to a loved one, it is recommended that you seek professional guidance on the completion and submission of an application form to the Injuries Board Ireland. Only then can you be sure that you receive the maximum amount of personal injury compensation and focus on recovering from your injury with financial security behind you.