Injuries Board claims, Settlements and Courts; How to make a Personal Injury Claim
The process of taking a personal injury claim through the Injuries Board and potentially all the way through court is, unfortunately, very involved. However, it is important to realize that more than 80% of personal injury cases do not go to court because they are settled first, meaning that the Defendant offers the victim a certain amount of money to settle the case out of court, and the victim accepts that amount of money.
1. Injuries Board Claims
With some exceptions (such as injuries arising from medical negligence) personal injury cases start, not in the courts, but in the Injuries Board. This is a statutory body which assesses how much compensation is due to an injured party. It doesn’t make any decisions on questions of liability i.e., who is to blame or an injury.
The process has three stages. Firstly, the injured party must submit their claim, with a medical report and proof of special damages (out of pocket expenses, consequential losses etc).
Then the Injuries Board contacts the respondent, who is the person the injured person says is to blame for their injury. They ask them if they are willing to allow the Injuries Board to make an assessment of value. If the respondent says yes, the assessment proceeds. If the respondent says no, the Injuries Board immediately closes their file and issues the injured person with an Authorisation. (An Authorisation is needed to proceed to take a Personal Injuries case in court.)
If the respondent says yes, the Injuries Board will then make an assessment of the value of your claim. That assessment is sent to both sides. If both agree to it, the Injuries Board will issue an order to pay. If one or other side rejects the assessment the Injuries Board will close their file and issue the injured person an Authorisation.
2. Hiring a Solicitor
More than 90% of applicants to the Injuries Board hire a solicitor to help them with their personal injury case because they want someone “on their side” to represent their best interests, to guide them through the complicated process of filing their claim, and to help them get the maximum award they are entitled to.
If you have been involved in an accident that caused you personal injuries, the solicitor you consult will need to know;
- All of the facts surrounding the accident, even ones you may think unimportant;
- All of the injuries you suffered as a result of the accident;
- All of the expenses you have incurred as a result of the accident.
For example, if you suffered an accident in the workplace, you will need to explain what you were doing at the time of the accident, who was in charge, and who witnessed the accident.
You will need to describe your injuries and any hospital or medical treatment you have received. Your solicitor will want to know about all injuries that you suffered, whether they were physical, psychological or emotional, and all your symptoms.
In addition, your solicitor will be able to take any action to secure evidence you will need for your case to be successful. Records, equipment, video footage. All of these
You will also need to calculate your expenses arising from the accident, including all medical costs (for example, doctors’ bills and medications), home-help costs, and loss of earnings if you were unable to go back to work. You should also include related expenses, such as bus and taxi fares if you were unable to drive as a result of the accident.
3. Settlement: High Court, Circuit Court, District Court
Most personal injury cases in Ireland do not go to court because they are settled in advance. Approximately 80% of all claims never see the inside of a court. Often, a settlement between all the parties is reached before the trial date or sometimes on the day of the trial.
If the Defendant wishes to offer you money to end your claim and you are agreeable to settling your case out of court, your solicitor can arrange a settlement meeting with the Defendant’s legal representatives prior to the trial date.
At the meeting, your legal representatives will explain to you the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the offer made by the Defendant and will give you advice about your chances of success at trial and the amount of damages you may receive in court.
If it is not possible to settle a case satisfactorily, you can elect to proceed to court.
4. Awards: High Court, Circuit Court, District Court
Your case may be heard in the District Court, the Circuit Court or the High Court. The choice of venue depends on the value of your case, i.e., how much you claim the Defendant should pay you.
If you have been injured in an accident, your solicitor will assess the value of your case by carefully considering all relevant factors, including the nature and extent of your injuries, your prognosis for the future, and the financial impact your injury has had on you and your family.
The District Court has power to award up to €6,348.69 in damages. The Circuit Court has power to award up to €38,092 in damages. The High Court has unlimited power to award damages.
5. The Court Case
If your personal injury case cannot be successfully settled, it will be scheduled for trial before a court. The format of your court case will depend on whether or not the Defendant admits to being at fault for your injuries.
If the Defendant in the case has not admitted to being at fault, the trial will take the following format:
- 1/ Your barrister will outline to the judge the nature of the case and the injuries you suffered.
- 2/ Medical evidence relating to your injuries may be given by a doctor, if appropriate.
- 3/ You are called to the witness box to give evidence about how the accident occurred and your injuries. The Defendant’s barrister may cross-examine you.
- 4/ All the other witnesses on your side give evidence and are cross-examined by the Defendant’s barrister.
- 5/ All the Defendant’s witnesses give evidence and are cross-examined by your barrister.
When all the witnesses have been called, both barristers may make submissions to the judge. This may include summarizing or emphasizing certain evidence or making legal arguments.
The judge will then make his or her decision regarding:
- Whether the Defendant was at fault and therefore liable to pay damages to you;
- The amount of damages to which you are entitled as a result of your injuries;
- Who shall pay the costs of the proceedings. Usually, if you have won the case, the judge will order that the Defendant pay your legal costs as well as his/her own.
If the Defendant in the case has admitted to being at fault but you are unhappy with the amount offered as settlement, then the matter will be sent to a court for judgment solely on the amount of damages.
In this situation, the court does not consider the question of who is to blame. The judge simply places a financial value on your case based on an examination of the nature and extent of your injuries and your prognosis for the future. The judge decides this amount by considering the available medical reports and, if necessary, hearing evidence from medical practitioners relating to your injuries. You may also be called as a witness so that you can describe your injuries.
6. Award of Compensation
It is not enough to have been in an accident or to have suffered injury in order to obtain compensation from the courts. It must be clear that the party or parties you have sued were to blame, at least partly, for the accident and the injuries you have suffered.
It may be the case that a number of people are partly to blame for an accident, including the person who has been injured. In this situation, called “contributory negligence,” the court might apportion or divide the blame between the different people involved.
For example, a factory worker might get injured both as a result of his own failure to operate machinery properly, and also his supervisor’s failure to inspect the machinery beforehand. In this situation, a court might decide the worker is 15% (for example) at fault for his injuries, and the supervisor 85% at fault. As a result, the court may only award the worker 85% of the compensation that his injuries are valued at.
Your claim for compensation will be divided into two parts:
This is compensation for the pain, suffering and inconvenience you have experienced, and will continue to experience, as a result of the accident.
The court will decide the amount of these damages by estimating the gravity of your injuries. It will do this by considering all the medical evidence before it, and by considering the pain you have already suffered and your prognosis for the future, i.e., how long and to what intensity you are likely to continue suffering.
This is compensation for the financial expenses you have incurred, and will incur in the future, as a result of the accident. For example, these damages would include the cost of repairing your car (if relevant), your medical expenses, your loss of earnings as a result of being unable to return to work, and all related expenses including travel, home-help, etc.
You may be asked to produce receipts and bills to prove you have incurred all of these expenses so it is important to keep a file of every bill and receipt.
When will you receive the award?
Usually awards as a result of civil cases in Ireland are paid by cheque by the Defendant to your solicitor within 6 to 8 weeks.