If you have suffered a injury in an accident for which you were not to blame, personal injury* solicitors enable you to claim for your pain and suffering, the effect your injury has had on your quality of life, and any income you may have lost – or expenses you may have incurred – due to somebody else´s lack of care.
Making a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland is not always a straightforward process. There are many reasons why your personal injury* claim may be challenged – adding strain to an already stressful situation – or settled for less than you are entitled; leaving you out of pocket and unable to pay medical expenses or support your family.
For these reasons, it is always in your best interests to seek effective legal advice from a personal injury* solicitor before making a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland. An experienced personal injury* solicitor will be able to warn you of the pitfalls you may encounter in your pursuit of your claim for a personal injury* in Ireland and help you to obtain an appropriate settlement of your claim.
It should also be noted that no two personal injury* claims are identical. You may know of somebody who has previously suffered the same physical injury as you and be expecting a similar settlement of your personal injury* claim. However, the circumstances in which you suffered your injury – and the impact the injury has had on your quality of life – may be significantly different. This is why we offer a dedicated client-focused legal service that treats you as an individual.
Making Personal Injury* Claims in Ireland
There are several routes for making personal injury* claims in Ireland depending on the nature of your accident and injury. The Injuries Board is one vehicle for processing a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland if you have been harmed in a road traffic accident, injured at work or hurt in a public liability accident – for example a trip over a paving stone in the street, or a slip on water that has leaked from a refrigerator in a shop.
If you have suffered an injury or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence, a personal injury* claim is made against the Health Service Executive or private medical practitioner responsible for your injury outside of the Injuries Board process. Similarly, other types of personal injury* claims in which liability might be determined by a professional opinion – rather than hard fact – are either resolved by negotiation or by court action.
This article explains several different ways of how personal injury* claims in Ireland can be resolved and, if you have any questions about which is right for you, we invite you to contact our office for legal advice from an experienced personal injury* solicitor. There is no charge for your initial consultation, and you will be under no obligation to use our services once you have spoken with us.
However, one important area of personal injury* claims our personal injury* solicitors advise on is to never accept an unsolicited offer from the negligent party´s insurance company. We elaborate on the reasons for this warning below, but first we start with two important elements that must be taken into account with every personal injury* claim – injury and negligence.
Qualifying for a Personal Injury* Claim in Ireland
After suffering an injury, not only is it common sense that you would seek professional medical attention for your injury, it is also vital to the success of a personal injury* claim. Without a record of an injury, there is no payout for a personal injury* claim in Ireland. Even if you developed symptoms of an injury or illness long after the causative event, it is essential that you have your symptoms examined and chronicled by a medical professional as soon as possible.
The reason for urgency is twofold. First, when there is a significant gap between the date of an accident and the date on which medical treatment was administered, the defendant of a claim for personal injury* in Ireland can contest the claim on the grounds that the injury was sustained in a different causative event other than the one for which you are claiming. Secondly, the defendant can claim your injury did not merit medical attention at the time of an accident, and that any subsequent deterioration of your condition is due to your own lack of care.
Once your injury is established, it also has to be determined that your injury was due to a third party´s breach in their duty of care. Everybody has a duty of care:
- Motorists have a duty of care to drive in a manner which is considerate to other road users and does not place them at risk of an injury.
- Manufacturers have a duty of care to produce goods that are safe to use and will not cause an injury to consumers.
- An employer has a duty of care to provide a safe working environment and implement safe working practices to avoid an injury to an employee
- Local authorities have a duty of care to maintain roads and footpaths, identify hazards and remove, replace or isolate them.
- Medical professionals have a duty of care to treat their patients with the best possible course of action at the time and in the circumstances.
The list of situations in which somebody (or some organisation) has a duty of care for your wellbeing is practically endless; although there are scenarios in which third party´s do not have an “absolute” duty of care and some circumstances in which an injury could not have been avoided.
An example of a defendant claiming that he or she did not have an absolute duty of care would be if you were to slip and fall on a wet floor in a restaurant which was wet because a drink had just been spilled on it. If the staff at the restaurant have not had a “reasonable” opportunity to identify the spilled drink as a hazard, and mop the wet floor dry, the restaurant might not be considered liable for your injuries.
What constitutes “reasonable” is often a question of opinion, and the issue of negligence and the “absolute” duty of care is further complicated by the “proximate cause” argument – “but for the actions (or lack of actions) of the negligent party, I would not have sustained an injury”. In the scenario of slipping on a spilled drink in a restaurant, if more suitable glasses had been provided for customers, would the spill have occurred? And how much of a personal injury* payout could you expect? Our personal injury* solicitors can help to answer these questions.
Contributory Negligence and Personal Injury* Claims
Before we finish with establishing injury and determining negligence, we would also like to discuss “contributory negligence”. Contributory negligence is a term which relates to the contribution you personally made to an accident occurring or the extent of your injuries. It does not necessarily disqualify you from making a personal injury* claim in Ireland, but it can affect the final settlement of your personal injury* claim.
Let us take for example an accident at work which occurred because you missed a training session. Your employer would still be liable for the accident because he or she had assigned you a task which you were not trained to do; but it could be argued that that you had a responsibility to catch up on the training session as part of your conditions of employment and you were therefore partly negligent for attempting a task that was beyond your capabilities.
We have already mentioned above the importance of seeking professional medical attention as soon as possible after an accident. If you bravely “battled on” after your accident at work, and your injury deteriorated as a result, you would be considered to have contributed to the extent your injury and how much your claim for a personal injury* in Ireland is ultimately settled for could be negatively affected.
It is also worth considering that the negligent party in any accident is often told by their insurers never to admit liability to an injured party. So, in situations where there is doubt about who is at fault, or whether you have contributed to your injury by your own lack of care, concentrate on making a recovery from your injuries and let your personal injury* solicitors deal with the issues of negligence and liability.
Making Personal Injury* Claims through the Injuries Board
The Injuries Board was established in 2003 to reduce the cost of making personal injury* claims and the time it took to resolve a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland. The process works by you submitting an application for an assessment of your injury, supported by your doctor´s report. The Injuries Board writes to the negligent party, asking him or her if they accept liability for your injury.
If the negligent party consents to an assessment, the Injuries Board calculates how much you are entitled to and sends you and the negligent party the assessment. If both of you agree on the value of the assessment, the Injuries Board issues an Order to Pay, and the agreed value is paid to you – less any State benefits you have received while you were recovering from your injury.
In theory, it is an ideal process. For many minor personal injury* claims in which liability is accepted, it is the most straightforward way to process a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland. However, if liability is contested, or the negligent party disputes the value of the assessment, the Injuries Board will issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your claim for a personal injury* in Ireland through the courts.
There are also issues with how the Injuries Board calculates the value of an assessment – with there being no guidelines available for completing their application in order to account for your emotional trauma or the effect an injury has on your quality of life. If you are unfamiliar with the process of making a personal injury* claim through the Injuries Board, it is likely that you will not receive the full amount of your claim for a personal injury* in Ireland that you are entitled to, so it is recommended you get in touch with a personal injury* solicitor before making any decisions.
Other Ways of Resolving a Personal Injury* Claim
Other ways of resolving personal injury* claims are through negotiation and court action. Out of the tens of thousands of personal injury* claims that are made each year, approximately a third are resolved through the Injuries Board process, another third through negotiation and the final third through litigation – which does not always mean a court appearance but can involve the help of personal injury* solicitors.
Negotiation is the simplest and quickest way to resolve personal injury* claims in Ireland, and many personal injury* claims are resolved in this manner long before the Injuries Board completes its assessment of your claim. Usually personal injury* solicitors prepare a case to court standards and presents it to the negligent party´s insurers. Assuming that the case is sufficiently strong for a positive response, the insurance company will willingly enter into negotiations to avoid paying court costs when they lose their case.
If a claim has to go to court to – either to establish liability or to resolve a dispute over the amount you are entitled to – your personal injury* solicitor will advise you of the procedures you have to go through before and during the court appearance. In many instances, personal injury* claims in Ireland are filed with a court to encourage the negligent party´s insurance company to negotiate, and often a settlement is reached and claims are resolved just prior to a hearing.
The exceptions to the above ways of resolving personal injury* claims include when the manufacturers of a faulty product or the owners of an airplane on which you have been injured are based outside of Ireland. In these circumstances, your personal injury* solicitor will advise you of the procedures relevant to the country of jurisdiction. It should also be noted that certain settlements of personal injury* claims have to be approved in court before the claim can be paid – for example claims involving children or other persons not legally able to represent themselves.
How Much Can I Expect for My Personal Injury* Claims in Ireland?
Settlements of personal injury* claims in Ireland are comprised of four main elements. Not each will apply in every personal injury* claim and on occasions supplementary elements may be added to ensure your receive a fair settlement. The four main elements are:
General Damages for Pain and Suffering – Payment for your physical injury is calculated according to the rates contained within the Book of Quantum – a publication that lists a variety of injuries and assigns them a financial value according to the severity and permanence of the injury.
General Damages for Emotional Trauma – Psychological injuries often develop during a plaintiff´s recovery. These may take various forms and – provided they are diagnosed by a medical professional – you will be able to include this element of your injury in your personal injury* claim.
General Damages for Loss of Amenity – This element accounts for the non-financial changes you have had to make to your way of life to account for your injuries. These damages are for a reduction in your quality of life (permanent or temporary).
Special Damages for Costs and Expenses – Special damages replace income that you may have lost because you are unable to work or costs that you have incurred – or may incur in the future – which can be directly attributed to your accident and injury. Special damages have to be justified by invoices, estimates or other acceptable documentation.
As mentioned during the introduction to this article, no two personal injury* claims are the same. With the exception of general damages for pain and suffering, three of the main elements for a personal injury* claim in Ireland can be extremely variable. This is why – whichever route you choose to purse a claim for personal injury* claims Ireland – you should always consult a personal injury* solicitor.
How to Claim for a Personal Injury* in Ireland on Behalf of a Child
If your child has suffered an injury in an accident for which they were not wholly at fault, they are not allowed make a personal injury* claim in Ireland until they reach the age of eighteen. As evidence of negligence may well have disappeared by then, parents are advised to make a personal injury* claim on their child´s behalf acting as a “next friend”.
A “next friend” has to be approved by a court, who will check that the parent is acting in the child´s best interest and that there is no conflict of interest – for example if the child was injured in a car accident in which their parent was the negligent driver. Once approval is granted, the ways of resolving a personal injury* claim generally follow the same paths as for an adult with a few minor exceptions – for example, an application for an assessment to the Injuries Board on behalf of a child cannot be made online.
Once a settlement for a personal injury* to a child is agreed, it must be approved by a judge. This is most often handled at District Court level; but, depending on the value of the settlement, you may be required to attend the Circuit Civil Court or the High Court. Judges at these hearings ensure that the settlement of a personal injury* in Ireland is appropriate and will, on occasion, amend the settlement if they think it is not in the best interests of the child.
Finally, once approved, the settlement of a personal injury* claim is paid into court funds where it remains until your child becomes a legal adult. If you need to access the funds for your child´s educational or medical needs, you can do so on application to the court responsible for approving the settlement. Reasonable requests are not refused.
Personal Injury* Claims and Insurance Companies
We mentioned earlier that you should never accept an unsolicited offer for a personal injury* claim in Ireland from the negligent party´s insurance company, and we would like to use this opportunity to explain why. Insurance companies are in business to make a profit. They have no interest in your physical, emotional or financial wellbeing, and will make you the lowest possible offer they believe they can get away with.
No matter how financially stretched you are or how appealing the insurance company´s offer is, you should always refer it to a personal injury* solicitor. Although not legally an admission of liability, an unsolicited approach by an insurance company is an indication that they want to settle your claim quickly. Your personal injury* solicitors will also act quickly to prepare the strongest possible claim on your behalf and present it to the insurance company to extract a fair and appropriate settlement.
If you are unable to work due to your injuries, it is likely that you will be financially stretched. In these circumstances, your personal injury* solicitors can arrange for you to receive interim payments until your personal injury* claims in Ireland is resolved – alleviating any financial pressure on you and enabling you to pace your recovery without money worries.
If you act in haste, and accept a settlement which proves to be inadequate, you may be out of pocket and unable to pay your medical expenses or support your family. In these circumstances, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more. At least if a personal injury* solicitor accepts an inappropriate settlement for a personal injury* in Ireland, you can always sue the solicitor for professional negligence!
Time Limits for a Personal Injury* Claim in Ireland
There is a limit on the amount of time you have to make a claim for a personal injury* in Ireland. Under the “Statute of Limitations” you are allowed two years from the “date of knowledge” of an injury in which to apply to the Injuries Board for an assessment of your injury claim or file legal action if the nature of your personal injury* claim does not come under the remit of the Injuries Board.
The “date of knowledge” is an important factor in personal injury* claims. Although it will most often be the date on which you suffered an injury in a road traffic accident, at work or in a place of public access, the “date of knowledge” is the day on which you were aware (usually through a doctor´s diagnosis) that you had suffered an injury. The significance of this is that you may have been diagnosed with an injury many years after the causative event in the case of medical negligence* or an occupational illness.
It is also important to note that the “date of knowledge” when children are the victims of a loss, an illness or the avoidable deterioration of an existing condition is not until the child´s eighteenth birthday – the date at which the two-year limit starts in personal injury* claims for children. However, as mentioned above, it is never advisable to delay a personal injury* claim on behalf of a child to ensure that evidence of negligence can be collected if required.
The two-year limit for making personal injury* claims in Ireland is not a reason to delay speaking with a personal injury* solicitor – indeed it may take the full two years available to construct a suitably strong claim in cases where liability is disputed or contributory negligence is involved. For this reason, we recommend that you contact our office at the earliest practical opportunity to discuss the nature of the personal injury* claims you would like to make in Ireland.