Things happen, don’t they? You leave the house one morning, trip over a broken kerb stone, and break your wrist as you crash to the pavement. The next thing you know, you are off work for two weeks and you have lost the chance to play in the annual local darts league championship you were so looking forward to.
Or there you are minding your own business walking to the local shop when a drunk driver comes speeding out of nowhere, clips you on the hip and when you eventually come to you are in the casualty department with your leg up in plaster and three broken ribs.
Seeking Medical Attention
The first priority at the scene of any accident is to make sure that everyone who needs it receives medical attention and if necessary calling an ambulance and the Gardai.
Even if no injuries are immediately apparent, after any blow, fall or trauma you are best to make an appointment with your doctor. Some medical conditions may only appear some days after an accident or will worsen over time; whiplash or back injuries for example.
Should I Make an Injury Compensation Claim?
After the dust has settled and all medical injuries have been taken care of, you may begin to wonder if you should claim for injury compensation or whether your claim would be valid.
In both imaginary cases above you would be entitled to compensation. In the first scenario, the pavement was in a state of disrepair and you would not have fallen had there not been a broken flagstone sticking up for you to trip over.
In the second case, you have every right to expect to be able to walk along a public footpath in safety. The drunken driver who hit you is clearly to blame for your pain and suffering and you would most likely be able to make a successful case against him.
For some people, especially the older generation, the question is less about whether a claim is valid but whether it is right to make a claim at all. Pensioners in particular, brought up in tougher times, prefer to suffer in silence and are not keen to ‘make a fuss’.
However, you must consider that the purpose served by compensation claims is twofold. Of course any financial settlement is intended to compensate the injured party for pain and suffering as well as any loss of earnings, out of pocket expenses, and material damage but it also serves as a financial penalty for those whose negligence or recklessness were to blame for the accident in the first place.
Consider the case of BRENDAN MCENEANEY whose case came before the High Court in July 2001. Mr. McEneaney was driving his companion home about 1:00 am on the eve of St. Valentine’s Day. His car hit a patch of black ice and in the resulting crash Mr McEneaney suffered catastrophic and life -changing injuries.
In the High Court, Mr. McEneaney brought a case against the local council, claiming that they had been negligent regarding the design and upkeep of the road upon which he was driving at the time of the accident. If, said the claim, the council had introduced a “french drain”, it would have collected the water which led to the slick patch of ice which caused McEneaney’s car to skid out of control.
The final settlement was record-breaking. After deductions, Mr. McEneaney was awarded £2,382,913 in consideration of his pain and suffering, loss of earnings and the long-term medical care that he, now a paraplegic, would require for the rest of his life.
While records do not show whether Monaghan Council installed a french drain following the McEneaney vs. Monaghan County Council compensation claim it is reasonable to assume that they took measures to ensure that no other driver would be put in danger on that stretch of road.
We offer FREE assistance to accident victims. You can call our solicitor advice line without obligation on 1800 911 940 or request a call back by filling in the form at the bottom of this page.
What is Contributory Negligence?
While there are countless situations in which an accident can happen through absolutely no fault of your own, there are just as many occasions where your own inattention or recklessness is at least partly to blame for what befalls you.
For example, if you are hit by a car while standing on the pavement waiting for the green man before you cross, you did nothing to contribute to the accident. However, if instead of waiting for the right time to cross, you recklessly dashed across the road and were hit by a car, then you have to accept that your actions significantly contributed to the accident.
Contributory negligence is usually expressed as a percentage. If you were found to have 30% contributory negligence then your claim settlement would be reduced by 30%.
I Was Partly Responsible. Should I Still Make a Claim?
Absolutely! Those claimants who recognise that their own actions contributed to the circumstances that led to their injuries or damaged property often ask their solicitor if in fact, their contributory negligence somehow cancels out their right to make a compensation claim.
It does not. Contributory negligence may reduce the total of your settlement but it does not cancel out the claim.
Take the case of Anthony McDermott. He was crossing a road at about 10 pm one evening in Galway . He did not cross at a safety crossing and there is evidence that he had been drinking just before the accident. Before reaching the other side Mr McDermott, was hit by a taxi, thrown into the air and suffered injuries to his elbow, leg, ankle and shoulder which were described in High Court as “…serious and permanent.”
The extent of his injuries meant that it would be unlikely for Mr McDermott to ever work again and this was a fact that had to be taken into account by the judge when reaching his final verdict.
Both the claimant’s medical charts and the Injury Board of Ireland demonstrated that Mr McDermott was under the influence of alcohol at the time of the accident. There is no question that he crossed the road in a reckless fashion.
For these and other reasons the judge concluded that Mr. McDermott was guilty of 50% contributory negligence.
Even so, the taxi driver that hit Mr McDermott was, according to the judge, guilty of driving at a speed which was not safe in a built-up area and not observing the duty of care to pedestrians that all drivers must display.
In the end Mr McDermott’s pain and suffering and future loss of earnings were estimated at €266,758. Given his 50% contributory negligence, Mr McDermott was finally awarded €133,379.
It is worth noting that Mr McDermott was accompanied by an actuary from the firm of Joseph G. Byrne and Sons who was acting under instruction from a solicitor. The judge noted that he had taken the detailed evidence provided by Peter Byrne as to Mr McDermott’s possible loss of earnings into account.
Given Mr. McDermott’s medical history as an alcoholic and the lack of clarity surrounding the actual accident, it seems likely that Mr McDermott would not have received a similar sum without the aid of the Byrne family firm.
Who do I Claim Against?
For all that injury compensation cases are as varied and complex as each individual involved, the overall system is easy to understand. Simply put, everybody in Ireland has the right to walk the streets, enjoy sports, education, entertainment, leisure activities and employment, to cycle, drive or sit on a park bench without injury.
Whether you were partially responsible or not, when an accident happens that is not 100% caused by your own negligence and lack of care, then it is possible that there is a case for compensation.
Who you claim against depends on the circumstances. If you were to trip over a badly laid carpet in a restaurant, the restaurant company would be named as defendants. If your car was damaged by a branch that cracked off a tree in a municipal park, it is likely your claim would be against the local authority and perhaps against the landscape company tasked with maintenance.
By far the most personal injury cases that occur in Ireland are related to traffic accidents in which case the other driver will be claimed against. Work related injuries are also common and it is the employing organisation which would be called to book.
Regardless of whom you bring the case against, one thing to remember is that the Respondent is not the one who pays the settlement. It is the Respondent’s insurance company who will be required to pay and it is the insurance company lawyers that you will face in court.
Injury Compensation Procedure in Ireland
Ireland has an assessment board which handles almost all personal injury claims. An exception is those cases that involve medical compensation because these are usually extremely complex and require specialist knowledge.
Although you do not actually need a solicitor to process a case via the Injury Board 90% of claimants do use the services of a solicitor to help file their claim.
Should I Engage a Solicitor?
As outlined in the case of Mr. McDermott above, had it been left to the Injury Board to make a case on his behalf it is unlikely that Mr McDermott would have received the settlement he did. When he engaged the support of a solicitor, who in turn sought the services of a professional actuary to give evidence on the extent of loss of earnings, Mr. McDermott ensured that the judge would hear the full details of his case and not be sidetracked by the issue of his alcoholism.
Insurance company lawyers are well practiced at diminishing the level of compensation – in fact their jobs depend upon it.
Without an experienced claims solicitor fighting your corner you would have no idea of what your claim was actually worth, how to best present evidence, collect witness statements or counter insurance lawyer disinformation. It is no wonder really that 90% of people prefer to put their future in the hands of a solicitor than trust to the vagaries of the Injury Board.
Right now, the easiest next step is to call our free solicitor advice line, without obligation, on1800 911 940
If you cannot speak now, simply fill in the contact form below to request a call from us at any time that is convenient for you.