Participants in a Personal Injury Claim*
A claim will usually be made up of the following parties:
- Plaintiff – the person who makes the claim – this is you and sometimes referred to as the claimant.
- Defendant – the person(s) you are claiming against.
- Solicitor – the person helping you in making your claim.
- PIAB – Personal Injury Assessment Board – also known as the Injuries Board – almost all personal injury claims* are assessed by the Injuries Board first before the next steps are considered.
Types of Personal Injury Claims*?
Almost all cases* will fall under one of the common personal injury claim types* following categories:
Road Traffic Accident Claims*
Road traffic accident claims* arise from any type of accident or injury sustained on the road by road users or in cases where pedestrians are involved in an accident caused by a road user. Some of these claim types are:
- Car Accidents*
- Rear End Collisions*
- Side Impact Accidents*
- Accidents on Poorly Maintained Roads*
- Bicycle Accidents*
- Bus Accidents*
- Hit and Run Accidents*
- Luas Accidents*
- Motorcycle Accidents*
- Motorway Accidents*
- Passenger Accidents*
- Pedestrian Accidents*
- Taxi Accidents*
- School Bus Accidents*
Accident at Work Claims*
Accidents at work claims* (also known as employer liability claims*) refer to any accident or injury sustained in the workplace as a direct result of the negligence of the employer or fellow employees. Some of the common accidents experienced at work are:
- Building Site Accidents*
- Dangerous Machinery Accidents*
- Farm Accidents*
- Forklift Accidents*
- Health and Safety Breach Claims*
- Accidents Caused by Poor Lighting*
- Ladder Accidents*
- Repetitive Strain Injuries*
- Pallet Accidents*
- Faulty or Lack of Personal Protective Equipment*
- Back Injuries at Work*
- Manual Handling Injuries*
- Warehouse Accidents*
Accidents in Public Place Claims*
Public place accidents* (also known as public liability claims*) refer to any accident or injury sustained in a public place as a result of the negligence or actions of the person (s) responsible for maintaining a safe environment for public use. Some of the most common accident claims* in this category are:
- Accidents in a Supermarket*
- Car Park Accidents*
- Claims against a council or local authority for an accident on a footpath, public park or poorly maintained or hazardous public space.
- Slips, trips and falls in public places*
- Accidents in a Hotel*
- Accidents in a Restaurant*
- Food Poisoning from a Restaurant*
- Accident on a Petrol Station Forecourt*
- Accidents Caused by Spillages*
Medical negligence* (also known as clinical negligence*) refers to a situation where a person is injured, or their current medical condition worsens, because of substandard care delivered by a medical professional and the injuries could have been avoided if the medical practitioner had delivered the correct level of patient care. Some common negligence claims* are:
- Cosmetic Surgery Claims*
- Misdiagnosis Claims*
- Fracture Misdiagnosis Claims*
- General Surgery Claims*
- Retained Surgical Instrument Claims*
- Wrong Site Surgical Error Claims*
- Medical and Prescription Error Claims*
What is Contributory Negligence*?
In a personal injury claim* it will generally be proven that the accident and subsequent injuries were sustained by another person – usually because of negligence. However, if the accident was caused by the person making the claim, this is known as contributory negligence.
This means that if you had any involvement in the cause of the accident or your actions have increased the severity of your injuries this may nullify your claim or significantly reduce the outcome.
For example, if you are involved in a car accident that was caused by another person, but you failed to wear your seatbelt, your injuries sustained would be greater than they would if you were wearing your seatbelt. In this case, the contributory negligence is you not wearing your seatbelt. You may still be eligible to claim because the accident was caused by somebody else, but it may be perceived that your injuries were more severe because of your negligence in not wearing your seatbelt.
How long do I have to make a claim?
There are time limits that dictate how long a person has to make a personal injury claim* following an accident. These time limits are explained in the statute of limitations.
Generally, a person has two years less one day from the date of knowledge of their injury to bring a claim forward.
What is the date of knowledge?
The date of knowledge refers to the date on which the injured person gained knowledge of the following facts:
- That they had been injured
- That the injury was significant
- The injury was caused by negligence, nuisance or breach of duty by the party at fault for the accident
- They know the identity of the party at fault
In many cases, the date of knowledge will be the day of the accident if the injuries are immediately noticeable. However, in some cases, an injury or illness may not manifest for some time after the accident. In these cases, the date of knowledge is the date they found out they were injured. Once the claim is submitted to the Injuries board the time limit ‘clock’ stops.
Note: Medical negligence* claims are not reviewed by the Injuries Board, therefore the only way to stop the clock on the time limit is to issue legal proceedings. Therefore, it is important to engage a solicitor as soon as possible after the date of knowledge in medical negligence cases*.
Accidents Involving Children*
Cases that involve a minor (a person under the age of 18), are treated a little differently to cases involving adults. A minor cannot bring a case forward themselves before they turn 18. Once they turn 18 years old the minor has 2 years less one day following their 18th birthday to make a claim.
However, a parent or guardian may bring a claim forward on their behalf before they turn 18 if they wish, this is known as the ‘next friend rule’. Any settlement awarded to the child is held by courts and released once the minor turns 18 years old.
How are claims calculated?
The first step in almost all personal injury claims* is for the Personal Injury Assessment Board to assess the claim and revert with a value of the claim. In doing so, the Injuries Board will use the Book of Quantum to value the claim.
What is the Book of Quantum?
The Book of Quantum, created by the Injuries Board, provides us with a general guideline on how much may be awarded in a claim. The information in this book was compiled settlement figures from various injuries from many different cases over several years. All the information in the book is based on actual settlement figures from various cases. The most recent book uses settlement figures from 2013 and 2014 personal injury cases*, therefore figures may vary today. The book assesses certain injuries in terms of severity and how long it may take to recover. Important to note is that this book does not determine the exact value of your case, actual circumstances and expenses incurred may lead you to a different outcome.
The Book of Quantum give us a guideline of a value for the injury you have sustained but there are other factors that may be taken into account when making a claim, such as:
- Loss of earnings, past and future
- Medical bills, past and future
- Other out of pocket expenses, for example, travel costs
Your solicitor will help you interpret the Injuries Board assessment and together you may come to a decision. Important to note is that you have the final say in whether to settle the case at injuries board stage.
Who are the Injuries Board?
The Injuries Board, also referred to as the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), was set up in 2004 by the Irish Government. Its function is to evaluate and assess personal injury claims* and its aim was to reduce the amount of time it takes for a personal injury case to be resolved. Since its introduction in 2004, it has significantly reduced the amount of time it takes for a claim to be resolved – to approximately 7-9 months in many cases. According to the most recent stats from the 2017 PIAB Annual Report in 2017, there were:
- 33,114 applications
- An average processing time of 7.3 months
- 12,663 awards
From these awards the split of accident types was as follows:
- 72% of claims were road traffic accidents*
- 18% of claims were workplace accidents*
- 10% of claims were accidents in public place claims*
What type of claims are assessed?
PIAB assesses the following types of claims:
- Road traffic accidents* (Motor Liability) – including accidents involving cars and other vehicles, bicycle accidents and accidents involving pedestrians, for example.
- Workplace accidents* (Employers Liability) – including slips, trips and falls at work, manual handling injuries, repetitive strain injuries, injuries sustained from employer negligence, injuries sustained from lack of or inadequate safety measures or protective equipment and accidents in hazardous working environments, for example.
- Accidents in public places* (Public Liability) – including slips, trips or falls and other accidents in public places such as, in supermarkets, shops, hotels, pubs and bars or on a footpath, for example.
What type of claims are not assessed?
PIAB does not assess the following claims:
- Medical negligence claims*
- Assault claims
- Cases, where the injuries sustained, are wholly psychological
- PIAB may also decline claims where there are complexities arising from pre-existing medical conditions.
In such cases, speaking with a solicitor would be your best first step in making a claim.
How do I make a Personal Injury Claim*?
Speaking with a solicitor
If you are unsure of how to start, a personal injury solicitor* is best placed to advise you. Your solicitor can assist you in gathering all the information needed in one place and then prepare and submit your application for you. Useful information that your solicitor will require include:
- Details of how the accident happened
- Details of the injuries sustained and photos of the injuries where possible
- Details of any pre-existing conditions or previous injuries
- List of expenses incurred as a result of the accident, medical bills, for example
- Details of the person(s) at fault for the accident
It is especially important to identify the correct person at fault when making a claim. If you have identified a person at fault for the accident and upon review, the Injuries Board don’t agree, then you may be ordered to pay their legal fees.
Certain aspects of the Injuries Board Application can be complex. The Law Society of Ireland recommends that people who are making a personal injury claim use a solicitor in their dealings with the Injuries Board – ‘Legal representation is necessary to guarantee the rights of victims of accidents against the interests of big business and the insurance industry.’
The next piece of important information in any personal injury claim* is a medical report to confirm the details of your injuries. A solicitor can request the report from the medical practitioner that treated the injuries. Furthermore, a prognosis from a doctor can be obtained illustrating the details of your injuries, the estimated time for recovery and the details of the necessary treatment will be needed for your claim.
In cases where you were treated by a psychologist to treat psychological injuries, your solicitor can also request a report from your psychologist to confirm your injuries.
The Form A is the name of the application that is submitted to the Injuries Board. Once all required information is gathered your solicitor can submit this to the Injuries or assessment along with any medical records and details of any expenses.
The Injuries Board will then acknowledge receipt of your application and issue a reference number. They will then notify the person/company responsible for your accident at this stage.
Assessment of Your Claim
Once your claim is assessed, if the Injuries Board concludes in your favour, they will revert with a suggested settlement amount to be paid to you by the party at fault. The offer cannot be negotiated; you may either accept or reject it and have 28 days to make your decision. Your solicitor will be best placed to assist you in deciding, however, the final decision will rest with you. There are two possible outcomes to this stage of the process:
- Order to Pay – If you and the person at fault for your accident agree to the suggested compensation amount, the Injuries Board will issue an ‘Order to Pay’ which orders the party at fault to pay the settlement amount to you.
- Authorisation to move to Court Proceedings – If you, or the person at fault, do not agree with the Injuries Board suggested amount then you will be issued with an Authorisation to move the claim forward and issue legal proceedings to resolve the matter.
If your claim does move to legal proceedings it is worth noting that most cases will settle before reaching a courtroom. The likelihood is that your case will be resolved in a settlement meeting before reaching a Judge.
Settling a Claim Outside of Court
Settling a claim outside of court may involve settlement meetings. If your case progresses to this stage the process usually works as follows:
- You will meet your solicitor at the courthouse.
- You will not interact with the other side personally and generally will not have to face the person at fault for your accident.
- Your solicitor will introduce you to the Barrister that will facilitate the settlement talks. Your solicitor will have briefed the Barrister on your case details.
- Your Barrister will speak with you and your solicitor and then speak with the other side and will then return with an update on your settlement. They may go back and forth a number of times negotiating with the other side.
- If you come to an agreement at this point, then your case will be settled at this point.
- If you cannot reach an agreement at this point, then your case will move to a hearing where a Judge will decide the outcome of your claim.