The Aim of The Injuries Board
The aim of the Injuries Board, an independent government body which was founded under the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) Act of 2003, is to (1) shorten the time it takes to complete personal injury claims in Ireland and (2) to minimise the amount of money spent on defending claims for personal injury compensation made against the State.
The Injuries Board has had some success in these areas. Where the average time it took to resolve an injury claim had been three years, it now takes approximately nine months and taxpayers have saved an estimated billion Euros (as of the end of 2014) since the introduction of the Personal Injury Assessment Board.
How does The Injuries Board work?
In cases of plaintiffs (the injured party) who have suffered injuries in an accident for which they were not at fault, the Injuries Board’s role is to assess how much compensation a plaintiff should accept from the negligent party’s insurers.
The Injuries Board will issue an assessment in a document-only process based on the information they are provided with by the plaintiff and often after an independent medical examination..
The information below will hopefully assist you in making a knowledgeable decision about whether you should have legal representation when you make a claim for compensation to the Injuries Board.
For advice specific to your situation we strongly recommend that you speak with an expert personal injury solicitor.
Recent Injuries Board History
June 2012 saw Article 7.7 of the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code make it a legal necessity for insurance companies who have been approached by potential plaintiffs to advise that all personal injury claims in Ireland must be made through the Injuries Board. It also requires them to inform the potential plaintiffs of the possibility that claims can be made without legal representation. This advice finished by saying that “any fees paid to a solicitor generally come out of whatever damages may be secured.”
As a result, Patricia Byron, the Chief Executive of the Injuries Board, encountered criticism for her announcement to the press that “employing a solicitor did not increase a claimant’s chance of getting a higher reward”. The General Secretary of the Law Society of Ireland, Ken Murphy, retaliated with a statement that 95 per cent of personal injury claims in Ireland were in fact made with the involvement of a solicitor and that potential plaintiffs were “well advised” to take that route.
The process for submitting an application for assessment to the Injuries Board will be explained below. Included will be the potential drawbacks you may face if you are unfamiliar with Ireland’s injury claims procedure, how a solicitor can help you deal with these drawbacks and a realistic outline of the benefits you can obtain by using a solicitor’s services when applying for an assessment to the Injuries Board.
The Injuries Board Process in Ireland
Making a basic compensation claim through the Injuries Board is very straightforward. The injured person simply fills out an application form (“Form A”), which can be done either online or on paper. You can obtain the paper Form A through the post from the Injuries Board or download it from their website. After completion, the form is submitted to the Injuries Board along with a copy of Form B – which is a medical assessment of your injury from your doctor – and receipts for any justifiable expenses you would like to recover.
When the Injuries Board receives your application and fee of €45, the person responsible for causing the accident will be notified and asked for their consent to go ahead with an assessment of your injury claim. The person responsible would be referred to as the “Respondent” by the Injuries Board and would subsequently be known as the “Defendant” should your claim go to court. The Respondent has 90 days to agree to the assessment taking place. If they fail to respond after 90 days the assessment of your claim will go ahead by default or if they withhold their consent for an assessment, an “Authorisation” will be issued to you allowing you to pursue your injury claim in court. The Injuries Board’s involvement in your claim would terminate from that point.
A request could be made for you to undergo another medical examination within four weeks if the Respondent agrees to an assessment. The cost of this would be covered by the Injuries Board. This medical examination might be necessary to determine your recovery progress from your injuries – especially as it could be up to four months since you submitted your application. The results of the independent examination may influence how much compensation your claim is worth.
It normally takes between seven and nine months for the completion of the Injuries Board assessment. When completed, you and the Respondent are sent a “Notice of Assessment”. Provided both parties accept the Assessment within 28 days, it is followed by an “Order to Pay”. You are likely to receive your compensation shortly after. On the other hand, should either party fail to accept the Injuries Board assessment within 28 days, you will be issued with an “Authorisation” to pursue your compensation claim through the court system.
How the Injuries Board Evaluates Claims for Compensation
The “Book of Quantum” is a publication which the Injuries Board refers to in order to assess the value of claims for compensation. Lists of specific types of injury are contained in the “Book of Quantum” and each is accompanied with a financial value according to how serious the injury is and its permanence. Your age, your general state of health prior to the injury and in certain cases, your sex, are brought into account in order to evaluate the value of the injury.
The resulting figure is called “General Damages”, which is the main element of an Injury Board assessment in the majority of personal injury claims made in Ireland. That said, there are numerous other elements which can amount to more than general damages for the loss, injury or deterioration of a current condition you obtained due to the negligence of someone else, as you will learn from the next section.
Elements Included in an Injuries Board Assessment
An Injuries Board assessment will evaluate general damages for any physical suffering experienced at the time of your injury and during your recovery. It should also include compensation for any quantifiable psychological trauma that has been acknowledged and documented in your doctor’s medical assessment along with the recovery of any income you may have lost or expenses you have acquired because of the negligence of the other party which caused the accident in which you sustained your injury.
Your “loss of amenity” should also be included in personal injury claims in Ireland. Simply put, compensation can be obtained for the negative effect your injury has had on the quality of your life, your inability to perform everyday tasks or partake in leisure or social activities.
The Injuries Board cannot accurately assess how much compensation you are entitled to if they are not made fully aware of the full extent of your injuries. However, there is little opportunity to explain the personal significance of an injury on either the online application or the hard copy of application Form A which is why it is always advisable to take advantage of a solicitor´s experience when submitting an application for assessment to the Injuries Board.
The Injuries Board and Court Action
You may be issued with an “Authorisation” by the Injuries Board if the negligent party fails to accept their liability for your injuries or if one or other party disagrees with the Injuries Board assessment. This does not mean that you will always be required to resolve your claim in court. The function of the Authorisation is to provide you with the authority you need to follow through with court action if Injuries Board procedure is unable to resolve your personal injury compensation claim, or if negotiations with the negligent party’s insurers while the Injuries Board procedure is on-going are unsuccessful.
What do Solicitors Recommend?
Many solicitors recommend that their clients apply for an assessment to the Injuries Board even if it is likely that a negotiated settlement can by settled some time before the Injuries Board procedure is finished. This way, if negotiations with the negligent party’s insurers fail to resolve your claim in a way satisfactory to you, you will not have to waste time for the Injuries Board to put the assessment in motion before you can start court action. However, there are some situations where a court appearance is unavoidable.
Children’s Claims and the Injuries Board
A child must have a parent or guardian representing them as a “next friend” should they wish to make personal injury claims in Iteland through the Injuries Board. You may acquire authorisation to represent a child from your local District Court without having to appear before a judge. Court appearances will, however, be required when an assessment by the Injuries Board is accepted. All injury compensation settlements for children have to have court approval before any payment of the settlement can be made.
Children go through the same Injuries Board procedure for making compensation claims as adults except for online applications which are not accepted for children. A paper copy of Form A, along with all of the supporting documents must be send through the post. Another exception would apply if your child has been injured due to the negligence of a medical practitioner.
Medical Negligence Claims through the Injuries Board
Both child and adult plaintiffs will have their applications for assessment for any injury related to medical negligence declined by the Injuries Board. The reason for this is, for a medical negligence claim in Ireland to be successful, it has to be demonstrated that your injury was avoidable “at the time and in the circumstances” and that a competent medical professional would not have made the same mistakes which resulted in a loss, injury or the deterioration of a prior condition.
In Ireland, a solicitor’s service is a vital necessity if you want to pursue a medical negligence claim or any other type of claim which the Injuries Board is unable to assess. Such claims include injuries caused by Thalidomide where the drugs company still refutes responsibility and for injuries related to the recalled DePuy hip replacement systems, where still no compensation benchmark has been set.
Alternatives to using the Injuries Board in Ireland
Since exclusions from the Injuries Board procedure exist, such as the potential complications associated with being able to represent your injuries effectively in a document-only process, the possibility that assessments may be declined due to a lack of consent or altogether refused because one party involved thinks the assessment is too high or low, it is hardly surprisingly that less than a third of all applications for assessments submitted to the Injuries Board are resolved using the process outlined in the previous sections.
As mentioned before, clients are often advised by their solicitor to apply for an assessment to the Injuries Board even if their claim would likely be resolved through negotiation. You do not have to wait until the Injuries Board issues an Authorisation before the negotiation process can begin. In a lot of cases, the negligent party’s insurers will approach you directly – soon after the accident caused by their client – to make you an unsolicited offer of injury compensation when you are in a vulnerable position. This is simply to protect themselves from impending financial liabilities.
The Injuries Board and Legal Fees
The first step you should take after an accident is to seek medical attention. After that you should always contact a solicitor for legal advice on making personal injury claims in Ireland, via the Injuries Board or by other means. Employing a solicitor does not, of course, guarantee the likelihood of receiving higher compensation. Nevertheless, expert advice from a solicitor is likely to enhance the value of your compensation claim above any legal costs.
It is stated under Section 44 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act that “the Respondent shall pay the fees and expenses, in whole or in part, that in the opinion of the Board have been reasonably and necessarily incurred by a claimant”. It is worth noting then that any advice offered by an insurance company under Article 7.7 of the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code 2012 which states “any fees paid to a solicitor generally come out of whatever damages may be secured” may not be entirely accurate. Most legal fees sustained in hiring a professional legal representative in Ireland are redeemable and can be included in your compensation settlement.
Why seek Legal Advice from the start?
There are a number of good reasons why it could be in your best interest to get legal advice from a solicitor when you have been injured in an accident that was not your fault; the first being that in Ireland it is, effectively, free. A solicitor’s help could be invaluable when you are recovering from an accident and not at your strongest – in a physical or mental sense. Although the Injuries Board Application Form A is straightforward to complete, any errors can negatively affect the outcome of your compensation claim.
In the event that consent to assess your application is declined or that the Injuries Board’s assessment is denied, you should still be making the reports and collecting the evidence that would be used to support your claim in court if the Injuries Board procedure is unable to resolve your claim. There may be inadequate evidence of negligence remaining to prove your case – if you attempt to collect evidence of an accident on a street or at work – if an Authorisation has been issued nine months after your accident happened.
With a solicitor’s assistance for all of these procedures and to oversee the completion of application Form A, the consequences of your injury and loss of amenity would be fully accounted for and included in the Injuries Board assessment. Your solicitor could also negotiate with the negligent party’s insurers to acquire a speedier resolution of your claim. He or she could represent you in court knowing all of the details of your case if a negotiated settlement is unreachable.
Your solicitor is an experienced professional who has undertaken many personal injury claims in Ireland and has submitted countless applications for assessment to the Injuries Board. An experienced solicitor who has dealt with this kind of case many times before to their client´s satisfaction and who has obtained the maximum possible injury compensation settlement in the past has a far bigger likelihood of success than a “do-it-yourself amateur lawyer”.
A Summary of the Injuries Board
Below are some final points to help you decide whether you would benefit from using a solicitor’s services in your personal injury compensation claim application to the Injuries Board.
- It is possible that you would not be happy with an Assessment by the Injuries Board. Since the Injuries Board provides a document-only administrative process for certain types of personal injury claims, your only option – if you disagree with the outcome – would be to start the procedure all over again with a solicitor.
- The Injuries Board procedure does not stop the possibility of “third party capture” (when the negligent party’s insurers would approach you inappropriately).
- The Injuries Board has no option but to issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your claim through the courts if your application for assessment is contested on the grounds of liability or how much compensation is evaluated for your claim.
- A solicitor will be required if the plaintiff is a child, a person who is mentally impaired, the victim of medical negligence or has suffered an injury for which benchmarks of compensation have not been established.
- The Injuries Board will reject your application for assessment of compensation if there is more than one party responsible for your accident or if you have contributed to your injury due to lack of care.
Even though injuries obtained through accidents where the plaintiff is not in the wrong can sometimes look identical, no two personal injury claims in Ireland are the same. Each claim needs to be assessed on its individual merits rather than against a book (“The Book of Quantum”) where the main objective is to list financial value for an injury with no recognition for the person in case.