What are High Court Personal Injury Cases?
High Court personal injury cases are those in which the experience and authority of a High Court judge is required to resolve claims for personal injury compensation above a certain value. The most common examples of personal injury cases in the High Court relate to catastrophic injuries caused by medical negligence or industrial diseases, but the resolution of a claim is not the only reason why High Court personal injury cases are heard.
Many High Court hearings that you read about in the press are for the approval of an injury compensation settlement. This is because settlements in favour of plaintiffs who are unable to legally represent themselves (i.e. children) have to be approved by a court to ensure that they are in the plaintiff´s best interests. When settlements are above a certain value, the approval has to be given at personal injury cases in the High Court.
Examples of Personal Injury Cases in the High Court
In addition to High Court hearings for the approval of compensation settlements, there are many reasons why High Court personal injury cases take place. Medical negligence claims and compensation claims for industrial diseases have already been mentioned, but any case in which liability is contested or there is a dispute over how much compensation a plaintiff should receive can result in a High Court hearing. These can include:
- Motor vehicle accident claims when the total settlement value is anticipated to be in excess of €75,000,
- Class actions, in which multiple plaintiffs have combined their legal action into one personal injury case,
- High Court personal injury cases in which the accident or injury is unique and there is no previous benchmark established for how much compensation a plaintiff should receive.
It should be noted that High Court personal injury cases are usually the last resort when the resolution of a compensation claim has been impossible through the Injuries Board process or by negotiation. It can also be the case that a personal injury case is escalated by a lower court when jurisdiction on complex legal arguments is required.
Action Required Prior to High Court Personal Injury Cases
Before a personal injury case reaches the High Court, there are several stages a claim for injury compensation must have been through. In respect of motor vehicle accident claims, claims for workplace injuries and claims for accidents that occur in places of public access, an application for assessment must have been made to the Injuries Board.
The Injuries Board will resolve many personal injury cases in these categories without the need for High Court action, and only when liability is contested or an assessment of compensation is rejected will the Injuries Board issue an “Authorisation” for a plaintiff to initiate court action. For other categories of compensation claims, the High Court is reluctant to hear personal injury cases for which a resolution has not been attempted through mediation or negotiation.
Settling Personal Injury Cases Out of Court
More personal injury cases are settled out of court than at a High Court hearing – sometimes only hours before a hearing is scheduled to take place. This may be because the negligent party´s insurers wish to reach an agreement over a settlement to avoid high court costs, or an element of contributory negligence has been agreed in which the plaintiff accepts a share of the liability for their accident or injury.
When insurance companies make offers of settlements to resolve High Court personal injury cases, it is always in the plaintiffs best interests to refer the offer to a solicitor. The solicitor will arrange a settlement meeting in which you will be advised of the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the insurance company´s offer and also on your claim´s likelihood of success and how much compensation you may receive at a hearing.
How Personal Injury Cases in the High Court Proceed
If attempts to negotiate an acceptable compensation settlement are unsuccessful, your personal injury claim will be heard by a judge. The format of High Court personal injury cases will depend on whether or not the negligent party has admitted responsibility for your injuries. If the negligent party has not acknowledged his or her breach in their duty of care, the hearing will follow this structure:
- Your barrister will outline the nature of the case and the injuries you sustained to the judge
- Your doctor may give medical evidence
- You will be called as a witness to give evidence as to the circumstances that resulted in your injury. It is likely that you will be cross-examined by the negligent party´s barrister
- Other witnesses supporting your claim will be called to give evidence and will likely also be cross- examined by the negligent party´s barrister
- Witnesses supporting the negligent party´s defence against your claim will be called to give evidence and your barrister will cross-examine
- Both barristers will make submissions to the judge – summarising your case and emphasising certain evidence or making legal arguments
The judge will make his or her decision based on the arguments presented at the High Court hearing. The decision will normally consist of three elements – whether the negligent party was totally or partially responsible for your injuries and therefore liable to pay compensation to you, how much compensation you should be entitled to receive, and who is responsible for the costs of the proceedings.
Further Information about High Court Personal Injury Cases
If you have been injured in an accident for which somebody else was to blame, contracted an illness due to medical negligence or your employer´s lack of care, or care for somebody on whose behalf you may be making a personal injury compensation claim, you should speak with a solicitor about personal injury cases in the High Court.
Only a very small proportion of personal injury compensation claims are resolved through High Court hearings, but – if the possibility exists that your case may have to be heard at High Court – it is in your best interests to seek further information about High Court personal injury cases at the earliest practical opportunity.