A personal injury settlement for a compensation claim in Ireland consists of two elements – general damages and special damages. General damages compensate you for the pain and suffering you experience when you are injured in an accident for which you were not to blame, whereas special damages reimburse you for any out of pocket expenses you have experienced (or will experience in the future) as a consequence of sustaining the injury.
It is important to be aware how much personal injury compensation you are entitled to receive in a personal injury settlement, as early approaches from an insurance company or an under-assessment by the Injuries Board Ireland may leave you undercompensated and in financial difficulties in the future. If you accept an inappropriate personal injury settlement, you cannot go back for more should the money run out, and this is why it is recommended that you always use the services of a personal injury solicitor.
Personal Injury Settlement – General Damages
The amount of general damages you receive as the first part of a personal injury settlement is based on values contained in the “Book of Quantum”. This publication lists many of the most commonly sustained injuries in Ireland and allocates them a range of financial “worth” based on the severity of the injury and the length of time it may take to heal. Inasmuch as the Book of Quantum is a useful guide in a simple form, there are several reasons why it should not be relied on for accuracy.
First of all it was published in 2004 when a personal injury settlement of (say) €50,000 was worth much more than it is today. Secondly, it takes no account of the age of a victim and if (for example) a young person and an elderly person both sustained an identical facial scar injury, it would not be appropriate to award both victims the same personal injury settlement as the younger person has to go through a much longer life span with the disfigurement.
Furthermore, the “book” fails to account for the impact an injury may make to a person’s quality of life and any psychological damage they might sustain. Experts agree that accident victims often suffer degrees of post traumatic stress disorder after a physical trauma, and it is important that all these elements are included in a personal injury compensation claim to ensure you receive an adequate personal injury settlement.
Personal Injury Settlement – Special Damages
The special damages which make up the second half of a personal injury settlement are best described as funds to replace expenses you have currently experienced as a result of your injury, or are likely to experience in the future. On the simplest level, special damages include the costs you have incurred in seeking medical attention and receiving care, but they can extend far more than that.
If you have suffered a back injury, you may have to employ somebody to care for your children or look after elderly parents until you recover. If you have been unable to work, you are entitled to claim for a loss of income. However if your injury restricts your ability to follow your existing profession in the future, you may have to integrate the cost of retraining into a personal injury settlement.
Special damages can extend to the many thousands of Euros it may cost to adapt your home for wheelchair access, buy mobility vehicles and receive training on how to use them, or pay for a lifetime of care. This is why it is equally important that professional advice is sought when making a personal injury claim.
Personal Injury Settlements and Contributory Negligence
A personal injury solicitor will not only advise you on what you are entitled to claim and how to go about it, but will help you in claims for personal injury compensation where you may lose some of your personal injury settlement due to contributory negligence. Contributory negligence is where you have contributed to your own injuries by a lack of care (such as failing to wear a seat belt in a road traffic accident) and it will affect how much personal injury compensation you receive.
Most people will know in advance whether they have contributed to their injuries, and it is better to inform your personal injury solicitor straight away if this is the case. Claims for personal injury compensation still have to be submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland, but they will be declined on the grounds of contributory negligence and you will be issued with an “Authorisation” to pursue your claim in court. If a solicitor is aware of the probability of this happening, he can prepare a case with court in mind from the very beginning.
The term “contributory negligence” does not only apply to an individual’s lack of care. It can be used when more than one party has been responsible for your injuries (such as a multiple car accident) and a judgement is required to ascertain the proportion of responsibility to each negligent party. This will not affect your personal injury settlement in relation to how much compensation you receive, but may extend the length of time before you receive it.
Personal Injury Settlements and Children
There are some special regulations which affect personal injury settlements to children. First of all, a personal injury compensation claim for a minor can only be made through the post to the Injuries Board Ireland. They will not accept online submissions from either a parent or guardian (or personal injury solicitor), and obviously not the child himself.
Children are exempt from the Statute of Limitations which restricts the amount of time an adult has to make a personal injury claim to two years. Children can make a personal injury compensation claim at any time until two years from their eighteenth birthday, however the claim has to be made through a parent or guardian acting as their “next friend”.
Once a child’s personal injury settlement has been agreed, it has to be approved in court before payment can be made. Sometimes a judge will order the personal injury settlement to be paid into court to be provided to the child when they turn eighteen years of age, or they may release some or all of it immediately if medical and educational expenses need to be covered.
Personal Injury Settlement Summary
In order to get a fair and adequate personal injury settlement in Ireland, it is essential that you are fully aware of your entitlement to personal injury compensation. This compensation is comprised of both general and special damages and although the Book of Quantum provides a guide to how much personal injury compensation you may be entitled to receive, it bears no reflection on suitable levels of personal injury settlements in many different scenarios.
It is also important that you are advised of all the special damages you are entitled to include in your claim. In catastrophic personal injury claims, the amount of special damages that is awarded can often be more than the general damages if they have to account for a lifetime of lost income and provide for long term care. For advice about both general and special damages, it is recommended that you speak with a personal injury solicitor at the earliest possible opportunity.
A personal injury solicitor will be able to guide you through issues such as contributory negligence and negotiate with the negligent party’s insurance company to avoid the requirement for acrimonious litigation in court. A solicitor will also represent you and your child when it comes to having a personal injury settlement approved in front of a judge in court. The Law Society of Ireland recommends that all claimants of personal injury compensation seek professional advice before making a personal injury compensation claim – even if it is only to establish that they have a personal injury claim which it is worth their while to pursue.