1. What is involved in bringing a personal injuries claim?
Personal injury claims have to be firstly assessed by the Injuries Board, which is an independent government body, which assesses the amount of compensation due to a person who has suffered a personal injury. We can advise and guide you through this process.
Initially an application form and medical report are submitted to the Injuries Board. Based on your application the Injuries Board will decide on compensation which they believe is appropriate to your case. The Injuries Board in assessing injuries are guided by a “Book of Quantum” which was published in 2004 and sets out a range of injuries and their value. You are free to either accept or reject any assessment made by the Injuries Board.
In certain circumstances, the Injuries Board are not in a position to assess personal injuries cases i.e. in cases where the defendant or their insurers refuse to allow the Injuries Board assess the personal injury claim or claims relating to medical negligence.
If you refuse the assessment made by the Injuries Board, or the Injuries Board cannot deal with your application, you are then free to prosecute your case before a court. Depending on the gravity of your injury your case may be heard in either the District, Circuit or High Court. We will advise you as to which court is appropriate to your case.
The District Court has jurisdiction only to award damages up to a sum of €15,000.
The Circuit Court has jurisdiction only to award damages up to a sum of €75,000.
The High Court has the power to award unlimited damages.
If you decide that you are not satisfied with the assessment given by Injuries Board we will arrange to have court proceedings issued and served on the defendant and their insurance company.
Often it will become clear to the defendant or its insurers that they have no defence to the claim and they will simply want to assess the extent of the compensation due to you and settle the case. If the defendant admits liability then you may only have to provide medical evidence as to the nature and severity of your injury.
However, in certain cases, injuries do not resolve quickly and often clients will need their injuries to be reviewed by their doctors over a period of time to fully appreciate the impact such injuries will have on their health and lifestyle into the future. Therefore we advise that negotiations for settlement are not entered into until all medical investigations are carried out and completed to the satisfaction of your medical advisors as it is only then that compensation can be fairly assessed.
Once the extent of your injuries and prognosis have been fully ascertained we may be in a position to exchange medical reports with the defendant or its insurers and this may lead to settlement negotiations being entered into on your behalf. Often cases are settled at this stage without the necessity of you having to attend court.
However, if settlement cannot be reached with the defendant or its insurers then the case will have to be heard by a judge and you may have to give evidence together with your witnesses i.e. persons who saw the accident, doctors, engineers, motor assessors, etc.
Throughout all stages of the case we engage highly experienced barristers to full advise you and appear in court on your behalf.
Once a case is settled it is normal for the insurance company to pay the award to you within a 6 to 8 week period.
2. The Insurance Company have been dealing with me directly – do I need a solicitor?
An insurance company is not placed to act in your best interest and cannot independently advise you. It is in their interest to settle cases as soon as possible after an accident even though you may not have a prognosis as to your injuries at that stage. By settling with an insurance company directly and early after an accident you risk accepting compensation that is inappropriate and insufficient for the injury you have suffered. A solicitor however acts solely in your best interests and has the knowledge and expertise to fully advise you.
3. Do I need a solicitor to deal with the Injuries Board?
In our opinion you should have a solicitor who has knowledge and expertise to fully advise in relation to completing the application to the Injuries Board and on the adequacy of their assessment. The Injuries Board do not require you to have a solicitor. However, you should be aware that in the event of you incorrectly completing the application form or not furnishing all relevant information that this can have significant and adverse consequences for your case.
The Injuries Board will not pay solicitors’ costs for advising plaintiffs as to the Injures Board process. These costs are agreed between the solicitor and client directly.
4. What do I need for the first consultation with a solicitor?
For the initial consultation you should bring all details of the accident. It is a good idea to write down, in advance, all details and facts relating to the accident such as the date and time, names and addresses the parties, names and addresses of any witnesses to the accident or Garda who attended the scene, the date you first attended your GP and the nature of your complaints.
If you are involved in a road traffic accident you should note the registration numbers of all vehicles involved and obtain the names, addresses and insurance particulars of all drivers.
By doing this you ensure that you furnish us with all relevant details and nothing is forgotten.
You should also bring with you photograph identification such as your original passport or driving licence together with evidence of your address i.e. utility bill and details of your PPS number.
You should keep a note of all out of pocket expenses and all receipts for doctors visits, prescriptions, X-rays, physiotherapy, bus and taxi fares (if you unable to drive).
Of course, you may not be in a position to have all this information to hand at the initial consultation and we can assist in obtaining all these details for you.
5. What compensation am I entitled to?
Firstly, you are only entitled to compensation if another party is to blame for the accident. There may be an issue of contributory negligence i.e. you having contributed in some way towards the accident. However, in such circumstances the court may apportion blame between the different persons involved.
Compensation is made up “general damages” which is compensation for pain, suffering and inconvenience and “special damages” which is your out of pocket expenses that you have incurred to date or which you may incur in the future – this would include loss of earnings, if you were out of work, or unable to return to your pre accident occupation, the cost of repairing the damage to your car, medical and physiotherapy expenses, prescription charges, travelling expenses, home help expenses, etc.
In relation to loss of income any social welfare payments received by you will be taken into account in assessing your loss of income. If you are self employed your accountant will have to vouch such loss of earnings.
Compensation or damages for an injury will be decided upon by a court by looking at the overall circumstances of the case as well hearing evidence of medical experts who will be in a position to ascertain the long term prognosis and the effect the injury will have on your lifestyle and ability to work into the future.
If you have a pre-existing medical condition or injuries which overlap with the injury you sustained the court may take into account this pre-existing condition/injury in deciding the award to be given to you. .
Initially, we will take up a medical report from your GP, Consultant and/or consultant who treated you in an A&E Department. In circumstances where injuries are more complex it will be necessary for you to attend with a specialist consultant for further investigation and reports.
You will have to attend medical appointments on behalf of the defendant’s insurers and/or the Injuries Board as this allows the insurers and Injuries Board assess your injury and decide upon the compensation appropriate to you.
However, if you are unhappy with the assessment made by the Injuries Board or any offers of compensation that may be made by the insurance company, the court will ultimately decide as to the compensation due to you.
6. How much time do I have to bring to institute a personal injury claim?
In general, you must institute a personal injury claim within 2 years from the date of the accident.
However, there are a number of exceptions namely, if the injured party is under the age of 18 years when the accident occurred, they can bring a claim up until 2 years after their 18th birthday.
Until a minor attains the age of 18 years, a parent or guardian can act as “next friend” and bring a clam on the minor’s behalf. All claims in relation to minors have to be ruled by a court so that the judge is satisfied as to the award being made. The compensation is then held in court until the minor attains the age of 18 years at which time an application can be made to have the award paid out to them.
The 2 year time limit can also be extended if you could not have reasonably known that you were injured for example, in cases relating to asbestos injuries or other industrial diseases that may not be detectable.
7. What is the position if I am injured while on holiday?
If you book a holiday through a tour operator you may be entitled to compensation. However, it is very important that you collect as much information as possible and photograph where the accident took place before you return home.
In certain circumstances, it may be necessary for you to use a lawyer based in the country where the accident occurred especially in circumstances where you have not used a licensed tour operator.
8. What happens if I suffer injury caused by an uninsured /unidentified driver?
All drivers in Ireland are obliged to carry third party insurance. However, in cases where drivers are uninsured or unidentified you may be able to claim compensation by instituting a claim against the Motor Insurers Bureau of Ireland (MIBI). The MIBI is a body set up by an Agreement between the Irish Government and the companies underwriting motor insurance in Ireland, for the purpose of compensating victims of road traffic accidents caused by uninsured and unidentified vehicles
If you become aware that a driver is uninsured /unidentifiable it is essential that you contact the gardai immediately and report the matter immediately to the MIBI by registered post or e-mail.
It is best if you have your solicitor do this.
The MIBI Agreement stipulates that accidents involving uninsured /untraced drivers should be reported to the Gardai within 2 days or as soon as reasonably possible after the accident.
It is important to note that only accidents in a public place are covered by the MIBI.
The MIBI will also refuse cover if:
- As a passenger you knew or ought to have known that the vehicle you were traveling in was uninsured or stolen.
- As a passenger you were complicit in the theft of the vehicle.
- As a passenger you were not seated in regular fixed seating in a commercial vehicle.
- You are an uninsured motorist.
9. Do I need a solicitor for the MIBI process?
The MIBI lays down strict time limits and procedures within which to file an application and these have to the followed. It is in your best interest to have an experienced solicitor act on your behalf as otherwise there may be adverse consequences for your case.
10. Who pays legal costs?
If you are successful in your claim against a defendant, who is insured by an insurance company, then the insurance company will cover your legal costs. But certain costs may not be covered i.e. the cost of having your solicitor advise you in relation to the application process to the Injuries Board or witness fees may not be covered in their entirety. You may have to pay some of these costs from the compensation awarded to you.
However, witnesses’ costs can be minimised if the case is settled out of court which frequently occurs.
11. How long does it take to process a personal injury claim?
Usually the Injuries Board issue an assessment within 9 months from the date the defendant agrees to the Injuries Board dealing with the matter. If the Defendant does not agree to the Injuries Board assessing the case, the Board will release the case far sooner.
Depending on whether or not you decide to accept the assessment of the Injuries Board the matter can then go into the courts system. The length of the process then depends on whether the case is processed through the Circuit or High Court. However, if settlement can be reached, and provided that your injury does not get progressively worse, it is possible to have the matter fully dealt with quickly after your case is released from the Injuries Board.
12. Is tax payable on personal injury compensation?
No tax is payable on any compensation awarded on foot of a personal injury claim. However, tax may become payable on any income derived from the compensation in the future.
13. Who pays for the cost of repairing my vehicle?
If the defendant is denying responsibility you may have to initially make a claim on your own comprehensive insurance policy for damage to your car. However, in the event of you succeeding against the defendant these monies will be reimbursed.
However, in cases of uninsured drivers, the MIBI do not cover all costs of repairing your vehicle. Where the damage has been caused by an uninsured motorist you will have to pay the first €440.00 of the cost of repairs yourself. If the vehicle was stolen, you are liable for the first €220.00 of the cost of repairs yourself.
You cannot process a claim with the MIBI if the damage was caused by an untraced car. If you have comprehensive insurance, the MIBI advise to make a claim on it initially. They have an agreement with all motor insurers whereby they will deal with all such claims without affecting your “no claims bonus”.
You are also entitled to car hire for approximately 2 weeks. However, you cannot simply rent a car indefinitely and expect to be compensated for the cost of hiring. You must either have your own car repaired or purchase an alternative car. If you do not hire a car you can claim for loss of use of your own car.
14. What should I do if I am involved in an accident?
The accident should be reported to the Gardai without delay. The Gardai may indicate that they will not attend at the scene of the accident but the matter should be reported straight away so that there is a record of same. It can be extremely helpful if you take photographs of the scene.
However, it is important that all parties at the scene of the accident use common sense and cars may have to be moved especially if they are located in a very dangerous position on the road which may cause further accidents
It is essential that you do not admit liability at the scene of the accident. In fact, it is often a condition of your insurance policy that you do not admit liability following an accident.
We advise that you do not deal with or settle your claim directly with the insurance company as quite simply decisions made in haste after an accident can turn out to be inappropriate. Insurance companies act in their own interests. We can arrange to notify the insurance company for you and deal with matters for you. If your have been in an accident involving an uninsured or unidentified car, the MIBI must also be contacted as soon as a possible and we can deal with this for you.
In certain cases it may be impossible to obtain details of the defendant and in such circumstances we will obtain all relevant details from the Gardai. However, you should where circumstances allow obtain the name, address and insurance details of all other parties involved.
In certain circumstances the Gardai may decide to prosecute one or more of the parties for reckless, careless or dangerous driving, drink driving or driving without insurance. Such prosecutions may be of assistance to your case in establishing liability for the accident.
15. Do I need a motor assessor to assess the damage to my vehicle?
Usually, we advise that you have your car examined by an independent motor assessor. They can advise you as to the cost of repairs and negotiate with the insurance company, if necessary. It may also be very useful to have an assessor’s report in the event that a defendant does not admit responsibility. An assessor can give evidence in court on your behalf to establish the defendant’s liability.
You should not repair your car until the defendant’s insurance company have also had an opportunity of having had your vehicle inspected and this should be done within a reasonable period once they receive notification of the accident.