One of the most important aspects of personal injury law in Ireland is that in order to make a claim for personal injury compensation, you must have sustained a physical or psychological injury due to a negligent action – or lack of action – by somebody who had a duty of care towards you. This “other party” may be, for example, the driver of a car who fails to give way at a traffic sign, an employer who ignores health and safety regulations in the workplace or a doctor who misdiagnoses an illness. Even though the people mentioned above may have owed a duty of care towards you – and failed in that duty – unless you suffer some form of injury or loss, you are unable to make a claim for compensation according to personal injury law.
Once you have established that you are indeed entitled to claim personal injury compensation, there are other aspects of personal injury law that you need to be aware of. These include the claims procedure, how personal injury compensation is calculated, how contributory negligence is determined, what limits are applied to the length of time in which you can make a personal injury claim, and how these personal injury laws are applied in the case of children. Although these elements of personal injury law are outlined below, you should always discuss a potential personal injury claim with a solicitor.
Making a Personal Injury Compensation Claim
In 2003, the personal injury law in Ireland was amended to reduce the time it took for a personal injury claim to be resolved and to save money in litigation costs. With the exception of claims for professional negligence, all claims for personal injury compensation had to initially be directed to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) – now known as the Injuries Board Ireland. This change to personal injury law reduced the average length of time in which a personal injury compensation claim was settled from three years to a little over six months.
The way in which a claim for personal injury compensation is now processed is that you first apply to the Injuries Board Ireland for them to assess your injury. Your application is accompanied by a medical report and any other documentation to support your claim – such as a copy of the Gardai traffic accident report or employer’s accident report. The Injuries Board Ireland will approach the negligent party, ensure that they consent to the assessment of injuries and then assess how much personal injury compensation you should receive. Both you and the negligent party receive a Notice of Assessment from the Injuries Board Ireland and, should the amount assessed be agreed by both parties, an Order to Pay is issued and your personal injury compensation claim is settled.
The Book of Quantum
The Book of Quantum is an essential tool in personal injury law used in the assessment of general damages. It is a publication which lists many different types of injury and allocates each a financial value based on the severity of the injury and how long it will take you to recover from the injury. Often, the Injuries Board Ireland may require you to attend an independent medical examination to ascertain how your injury is healing. The longer you leave your personal injury claim before applying for an assessment, the more likely you are to require further examination.
The Book of Quantum methodology for determining how much personal injury compensation you may receive has been criticised by many as an inappropriate instrument of personal injury law, as it fails to take into account any increase in the cost of living since 2004 and, more importantly, does not assess “the personality of the individual plaintiff and how devastating the effect of the particular injuries have been on a such a person with the relevant particular circumstances and character.” (Mr. Justice Budd – McFadden v. Weir  IEHC 473 High Court – 16 December 2005).
Contributory negligence is another factor within personal injury law which will determine how much personal injury compensation you receive. Contributory negligence is where it is claimed that you were responsible for some of your injuries by your own lack of care. An example of contributory negligence would be a front seat passenger who is injured in a road traffic accident, and who was not wearing a seatbelt at the time.
If it is claimed that you contributed to your injuries, the Injuries Board Ireland will decline to assess your application for personal injury compensation and issue you with an authorization to pursue your personal injury claim through the courts. Unless otherwise agreed by negotiation, the courts will hear your case and that of the defendant and allocate a percentage of contributory negligence to your claim. This percentage will determine how much your compensation settlement is reduced by.
Statute of Limitations
The Civil Liability and Courts Act (2004) included in its regulations that, in all cases of personal injury compensation, a time limit of two years would exist from the date that there was “knowledge” of an injury in which to make a claim for compensation. This personal injury law is known as the Statute of Limitations and means that, once you know you have been injured, you will lose your right to make a personal injury claim if you delay your application to the Injuries Board Ireland or your personal injury solicitor fails to issue notice of court proceedings for more than two years.
The “date of knowledge” is a key factor in this personal injury law. In many cases the date on which you know you have been injured will be the date on which an injury occurred – for example when you are injured in a fall at work. However, in many medical negligence cases and in occupation acquired diseases (asbestosis, carpal tunnel syndrome, hand arm vibration syndrome), the date of knowledge is the date on which you were diagnosed with the injury.
Children are exempt from the Statute of Limitations – having two years from their eighteenth birthdays within which to make a claim for personal injury compensation. However, it is not always advisable to leave a long period of time between an injury being sustained and making a personal injury compensation claim as the memories of witnesses can become blurred and evidence of the injury become corrupted.
Children can make a personal injury claim prior to their eighteenth birthdays, but personal injury law states that they must be represented by a parent or guardian acting as their next friend. Another personal injury law applicable to children means that any compensation settlement awarded by the Injuries Board Ireland or negotiated by a solicitor has to be approved by a court before payment of personal injury compensation can be made.
Because there are so many facets of personal injury law in Ireland, it is in your best interests to discuss your claim with a personal injury solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity after you have sustained an injury or loss for which you where not wholly to blame. Elements of personal injury law can affect how much personal injury compensation you will receive or if you will be entitled to make a claim at all!
A solicitor will advise you on how to complete your application to the Injuries Board Ireland to ensure you receive an up-to-date assessment of your personal injury claim which reflects the impact your injury has made to the quality of your life. He will also be able to guide you through the special damages you may be entitled to claim and prepare the strongest possible case on your behalf to ensure you receive a fair and adequate compensation settlement should your claim for personal injury compensation have to go to court.