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Guide To High Court Proceedings

High Court Personal Injury* Proceedings: An Introduction

High court personal injury claims are usually made when an agreement on liability is in question, when a satisfactory settlement cannot be reached easily and when cases are extremely complex.

Some high court cases are heard when they are the next logical step when both parties involved in a compensation claim must take some responsibility for the injuries sustained in an accident and the balance of proof as to who was to blame is debatable.

In the majority of cases all efforts will be made to reach a settlement figure which is reasonable and acceptable to both the injured and negligent parties, and even though the process may be a lengthy one, an adequate resolution is generally arrived at without cause for high court action.

Before Claims go to the High Court

Apart from some exceptions – cases involving medical negligence, for instance – cases for personal injuries begin with the Injuries Board Ireland, i.e. they must be assessed before any high court personal injury claims are made.

The Injuries Board Process has three phases. The first requires the accident victim to submit their claim with a medical report, proof of financial losses and a 40 Euro fee for online application and a 45 Euro fee for submissions made through post.

When the application has been received, the Injuries Board will contact the respondent with a request for permission to carry out the assessment. If the respondent gives their consent, the application goes ahead. If the respondent withholds their consent, the Injuries Board closes the accident victim’s file and issues them with an “Authorisation” – the document needed to take a personal injuries case to trial.

In the case of consent, the Injuries Board will then assess the value of the accident victim’s claim, and send it to both sides when finalised. The Injuries Board will issue an order to pay and, if one or both sides reject the assessment, the Injuries Board will close the file and the accident victim will receive an Authorisation.

Immediate court action may not be necessary, however, as negotiations can take place between the two parties. Fair and reasonable settlements can be reached by this method; in fact, most settlements are decided on out of court, but if no figure can be agreed on the case will be taken to court.

The Court Case

High court personal injury claims are heard for cases which demand the highest compensation award. The structure of your court case is influenced by whether or not the defendant accepts responsibility for your injuries.

If the defendant denies responsibility the trial will take this structure:

  • Your barrister will summarise the nature of the case and the injuries you suffered
  • If relevant, medical evidence relating to your injuries may be given by a doctor
  • You will be called to the witness stand to give evidence about the circumstances of the accident and your injuries and you may be cross-examined by the defendant’s barrister
  • Witnesses on your side give evidence and are cross-examined by the Defendant’s barrister
  • The defendant’s witnesses give evidence and are cross-examined by your barrister
  • Both barristers may make submissions to the judge

The judge will then make his or her decision accounting for:

  • Whether the defendant was to blame and is therefore liable to pay you damages
  • The amount of damages to which you qualify for as a result of your injuries
  • Who shall pay the costs of the court proceedings – usually, if the plaintiff is successful, the judge will order that the defendant pay your legal costs as well as their own.

If the defendant in the case admitted blame for the accident but you are not satisfied with how much was offered as settlement, the issue will be referred to a court for judgement based only on the amount of damages.

High Court Personal Injury Claims Awards

In order to be awarded with compensation for high court personal injury claims, it must be clear that the negligent party was to blame for your injury.

In cases where a number of people are each partly responsible for an accident, including the injured party, a situation known as “contributory negligence” , may arise where the court would apportion or divide the blame between the different parties involved, and the value of the overall claim may be reduced.

Your compensation claim is divided into general damages – to compensate for any pain and suffering – and special damages – for the financial expenses incurred and will incur in the future. Usually awards in Ireland are paid by cheque to the plaintiff’s solicitor within six to eight weeks.