There are many different scenarios in which you may be entitled to claim personal injury* compensation. You could be an injured driver or passenger in a road traffic accident, a person who sustains an injury at work or somebody who slips on a wet surface in a shop and sustains an injury when they fall.
In all these of these examples, two conditions have to be fulfilled in order for personal injury* claims to be successful — you must have sustained some form of quantifiable injury which was caused by the negligence of somebody who owed you a duty of care.
Quantifying that you have sustained an injury is very straightforward. One look at your medical records will prove that you suffered an injury, how bad the injury is and how it will be until you recover from it – assuming you recover at all.
Determining who is responsible for your accident and how much personal injury* compensation you are entitled to can be a different proposition altogether, and this article explains some of the pitfalls that you may encounter when you try to make personal injury* claims.
Liability and the Duty of Care
In order for somebody to be liable for your injury (i.e. the person the injury claim for compensation is made against), they must have owed you a “duty of care”. Some examples of a “duty of care” are very easy to understand – for example a car driver owes a duty of care to drive safely and within the rules of the road.
If the car driver acts negligently and goes through a red light, he or she is then in breach of their duty of care – and liable in a claim for personal injury* compensation if they injury somebody due to their negligence.
It does not have to be a deliberate breach of their duty of care for the car driver to be liable in any subsequent personal injury* claims. They might have gone through the red light because they were not paying due care and attention – itself a breach in their duty of care – and, in most situations, the car driver will admit an accident was their fault automatically.
However, not all explanations are so straightforward. For example, if you were to slip on milk in a supermarket that had leaked just a moment beforehand, and staff at the supermarket had not had a “reasonable” opportunity to identify the hazard and remove it, it is unlikely that an injury claim for compensation would be successful.
Other personal injury* claims in which issues may arise about liability and the duty of care include:
Compensation for being an injured passenger in a car crash when you got into the car knowing that the driver had been drinking alcohol or taking drugs
Compensation for a child being injured in a park when the local authority had not had a “reasonable” opportunity to identify a hazard and isolate, remove or repair it
Compensation for injuries due to a chiropractor´s treatment when the manipulation of the spine results in worse pain than that which was being treated
Compensation for an accident at work when you were aware that an item of machinery required maintenance but you neglected to report it
Compensation for being prescribed the wrong medicine when the symptoms of an adverse reaction have manifested over a period of time
Compensation for a trip and fall on a footpath where the rise between damaged pavement slabs is less than 2.5 centimetres (this does not exclude you from making a claim).
Consequently it is always advisable to seek professional legal advice from a personal injury* solicitor when you have been injured in an accident for which you were not to blame.
The Process for Claiming Personal Injury* Compensation
There are several processes for claiming personal injury* compensation in Ireland depending on the nature of your injury and how the accident in which you were injured occurred. Most people have heard of the Injuries Board, and it is through the Injuries Board that you would normally claim compensation for injuries sustained in road traffic accidents, for injuries sustained at work and what we call “Public Liability Claims” – for example slipping on spilled milk in a supermarket.
With these types of personal injury* claims you also have the option of using a solicitor to represent you – either through the Injuries Board or directly with the negligent party´s insurance company. This way you can be assured that the amount of compensation you received is appropriate to your injury and takes into account your financial losses and deterioration in your quality of life. What you should never do is deal directly with an insurance company yourself.
The Injuries Board does not deal with every type of injury claim for compensation and you will need to use a solicitor if you have suffered a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to medical negligence*, or if (for example) you have been hurt on a holiday that was not booked through a Irish travel agent, or if you have been the victim of an injury due to a product such as a faulty hip implant or faulty breast implant. If you are in any doubt about the process for claiming personal injury* compensation in Ireland, again, you should speak with a solicitor.
Time Limits for Making an Injury Claim for Compensation
In the majority of cases you have two years from the “date of knowledge” you have been injured in which to make an injury claim for compensation. Normally, the date you know you have been injured will be the same date on which the accident occurred that caused your injury, but there can be times – such as when you develop an occupational disease at work – when it may be many years before your injury and its source is identified.
If your child has been injured, the time limits do not start until he or she reaches eighteen years of age. Despite this, it is not recommended that you wait any longer than necessary before speaking with a solicitor as it may be important to collect evidence of negligence while it still exists. There are also different processes for making personal injury* claims on behalf of your child, and solicitor will explain these to you when you speak with them.
Settlements of Personal Injury* Claims
Settlements of personal injury* claims in Ireland are usually comprised of three different factors – the nature of your injury and how long it will take you to recover from it, the impact that your injury has had on your quality of life and the financial implications of your injury.
How much personal injury* compensation you receive for your pain and suffering is governed by the “Book of Quantum” – a publication which lists various types of physical injuries and attributes them with a financial value according their severity and the likely recovery period. The Book of Quantum does not cover very possible injury and, in cases where your injury is not covered, your solicitor will review previous personal injury* claims which are similar to yours in order to find a precedent.
Psychological injuries are not accounted for in the Book of Quantum as these may manifest as a result of the accident in which you were injured (for example PTSD) or as a result of a deterioration in your quality of life (for example depression). The term applied to the deterioration in a plaintiff´s quality of life is “Loss of amenity”, and you will be able to include this factor in an injury claim for compensation if you are unable to partake in day-to-day activities (because of your injury) which formed part of your “normal” life prior to your accident.
Financial losses as a result of an accident include any loss of income you may have suffered due to your injury, or any additional costs you have incurred. This element of an injury claim for compensation has to be supported by documentation such as payslips and invoices. Any state benefits you receive while unable to work will have to be returned to the Department of Social Protection under the “Recovery of Certain Benefits and Assistance Scheme” and your settlement of personal injury* compensation will be adjusted to reflect this.
With three significantly different factors influencing how much personal injury* compensation personal injury* claims are settled for, it is easy to understand why no two personal injury* claims are identical. Even if you have sustained exactly the same injuries as somebody else you know or somebody you may have read about in the papers, it is extremely unlikely that you receive a similar settlement of personal injury* compensation. Consequently, for accurate guidance on how much personal injury* compensation you may be entitled to, you should discuss the nature of your accident and injury with a solicitor.
Unsolicited Approaches from Insurance Companies
Earlier in this article we commented “What you should never do is deal directly with an insurance company yourself” and we would like to explain why this is. Whereas assessments of personal injury* compensation made the Injuries Board – and settlements of personal injury* claims negotiated by solicitors – are based on the Book of Quantum plus the other variables mentioned above, insurance companies use no such guidelines when assessing the value of an injury.
Furthermore, as the sole function of an insurance company is to make a profit, the likely outcome of any settlement agreed independently with an insurance company is that you will be undercompensated. Insurance companies have no interest in your financial well-being, and the only benefit of agreeing to an unsolicited approach from an insurance company is that your injury claim for compensation will be resolved quicker.
If you are experiencing financial difficulties, and the promise of a quick settlement of your claim tempts you to accept an insurance company´s offer, please speak with a solicitor as soon as possible. As the insurance company has effectively acknowledged their policyholder´s liability, a solicitor will be able to arrange for an interim payment of personal injury* compensation to alleviate the financial pressure on you while an appropriate settlement of personal injury* compensation is negotiated.
If you inadvertently accept an offer of from an insurance company, and it subsequently proves to be inadequate to support your family, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more!
Legal Advice about Your Injury Claim for Compensation
No matter the circumstances of your accident, you are invited to call our Irish Accident Compensation Hotline if you have sustained a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition due to the negligence of somebody who owed you a duty of care.
Our team of experienced personal injury* solicitors will be able to advise you on the most appropriate process for making personal injury* claims, confirm whether or not your injury claim for compensation falls within the time limits allowed and give you an approximate indication of how much personal injury* compensation you may be entitled to.
You are under no obligation to act on any of the advice provided for you or to engage us as your legal representatives if you choose to proceed with an injury claim for compensation. Our confidential service has been established to provide you with the information you need to make an informed decision about whether you have a claim for personal injury* compensation which is worth your while to pursue.
If now is not a convenient time to speak with us, please take advantage of our “Callback” form below, letting us know a little about your accident and injury, and when it might be more suitable for one of our team to give you a call back. Again, this service is completely free, totally confidential and with no obligation on you to proceed with a claim for personal injury* compensation.