There have been calls from various groups for some time for the Government to step in and examine the awards that are given in personal injury cases. There are a few reasons for this:
- Many cases were unnecessarily going through the courts which is more expensive.
- Certain bodies believe that a reduction in compensation will lead to a reduction in insurance premiums.
The Personal Injuries Guideline Committee was set up to review and prepare guidelines. On March 6th, the Judicial Council, made up of the country’s 166 judges, voted to support these guidelines. Legislation was passed to bring the Guidelines into effect and they now apply to all cases assessed by the PIAB after the commencement date of April 24th 2021.
Where a claim was commenced before the 24th of April, it will be assessed based on the Book of Quantum. Where a claim is commenced on or after that date, it will be assessed based on the new Personal Injuries Guidelines.
The Personal Injury Assessment Board
The Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) is a Government body set up in 2003. All personal injury claims, except those for medical negligence, must initially go through the Injuries Board. One reason it was set up was to provide a more cost effective method of dealing with personal injury claims so as to avoid costly litigation and hence, insurance premium hikes. It hadn’t succeeded in reducing premiums. It has been successful in achieving settlement of many cases and avoiding unnecessary litigation but not enough. The number of cases being settled by the Board has fallen in recent years, hence the need for reform.
The guidelines aim to enhance and reform the Personal Injuries Assessment Board so as to bring more cases within its remit and reduce the number of cases going to court.
The Book of Quantum suggested awards for different types of injuries, based on the prevailing levels of court and settlement awards. Now, the guidelines aim to ensure that the awards are reduced in certain types of cases.
- A simple undisplaced nose fracture with a full recovery would be awarded between €500-€3,000. Previously - between €18,000-€22,000. Serious nose fractures would still be awarded much higher figures.
- A soft tissue shoulder injury from €500–€12,000 depending how long it took to make a substantial recovery over a period up to two years.
Previously - it was “up to” €33,500
- Minor neck or whiplash injuries from €500–€12,000, if fairly quickly recovered.
Previously - up to €15,700 where there has been a substantial recovery. Up to €19,400 where a full recovery is expected.
Awards for serious injuries increased in the guidelines. A catastrophic injury, for example paralysis, injuries resulting in shortened life expectancy or undiagnosed cancers or terminal illness contracted through negligence now carry a maximum award of €550,000. This previously was €500,000. We often hear much larger figures for this type of injury, but the big figures arise from things like, ongoing care costs and loss of earnings.
How Successful will the New Guidelines be?
Insurance premiums can only be reduced if the insurance companies are on board and are committed to reform.
With regard to ensuring that compensation levels are proportionate to the injury, the guidelines in theory seem fair.
In practice, it is vital that those who are entitled to fair compensation, receive it. We have seen many people with horrific injuries as a result of an accident where someone else is negligent. People have had to pay out significant sums of money on treatment and medical bills and have been unable to earn a living. It is essential that these people continue to get fair compensation to cover the losses and expenses incurred.
The aim of this type of compensation is to put you back in the same position, financially, as if the accident had never occurred. The aim is not to profit from it.