Personal injury law

Road Traffic Accidents

The majority of serious personal injuries sustained by people tend to occur at the workplace or in road traffic accidents.

The Personal Injuries Board (“PIAB”) was established in 2003 with a view to speeding up and reducing the costs of personal injuries actions.

It is, on the face of it, quite a straightforward process but there are some essential issues to be considered.

Should you be unfortunate enough to sustain an injury in a road traffic accident, the first thing you must do is take the details( i.e name, address and insurance company ) of the (other) driver(s) involved in the crash. You should also note their vehicle registration number and you should then contact An Garda Síochána to report the accident and most importantly you should not leave the scene of the crash before the Gardaí arrive . Once you instruct a solicitor, they will use their legal knowledge to start preparing your case. Sometimes the County Council or an adjoining landowner may have a responsibility, for example, if there was a dangerous road surface, the main issue will be for your solicitor to advise you as to who was legally at fault. The solicitor will also need to ascertain which insurance company the other driver is insured with (if not already known). If they have no insurance, then your solicitor will explore whether the Motor Insurers Bureau can be pursued in the claim.

Your solicitor will obtain a copy of the medical reports from your doctors and prepare the documentation for submission to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board ( “ the PIAB”) which is bound by statutory periods and timelines which must be considered.

PIAB can arrange to have you reviewed by their own independent doctors and will assess your injuries and your potential financial loss having regard to the PIAB “Book of Quantum”. This Book is a statutory publication providing guidance by way of a listing of deemed appropriate financial compensation for specific personal injuries. These listings determine the amount of compensation offered in respect of an award for injuries sustained.
At the PIAB application stage, you can accept or reject the amount suggested. Should you accept the amount offered and, assuming the insurance company on the other side also accept the assessment, the cheque for compensation will issue some weeks later.

Should you reject the amount offered in the assessment, a Certificate of Authorisation will issue from PIAB allowing your solicitor to issue proceedings in the Court system in the usual manner.

The review and determination as to whether or not the assessment offered by PIAB is reasonable in the circumstances is a technical review which will be undertaken by your solicitor having regard to the extent of your injuries and the medical reports that have been received to date. The expert opinions in these reports will determine whether or not the amount offered as compensation is reasonable in the circumstances.
If the ‘other side’ do not admit liability for the cause of your accident or if the accident injuries are too severe for PIAB to assess (for example, where there are very long-term significant impacts and consequences for you) or where the extent of the injuries will not be evident during the period of time within which PIAB have to consider the matter, PIAB will issue an authorisation to enable your solicitor to issue proceedings in court in the usual manner.

One point of note is that children under 18 are regarded as minors under the law and are not in the position to take an action for personal injuries in court. This is addressed by either a parent or a guardian issuing the proceedings on behalf of the client (known as a “next friend” in the court system) or, if the child is almost 18, the solicitor may advise you to wait until the child has attained the age of majority before the proceedings are instituted.

Accidents at work

The second main leading cause of serious injuries are accidents at work.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (“PIAB”) was established in 2003 with a view to speeding up and reducing the costs of personal injuries actions.

In an employment situation, there are very strict rules governing the conduct of an employer. There is a duty of care to employees imposed on employers determined by case law :

  • The provision of competent staff
  • The provision of a safe place of work
  • The provision of proper equipment
  • The provision of a safe system of work.

These obligations are contained in the Health, Safety and Welfare at Work Act 2005, and also, there is now a range of detailed Regulations that contain comprehensive safety standards in specific areas, such as Construction.

The PIAB procedure for accidents at work is largely similar to that involving road traffic incidents. Initially, an application for assessment of the claim must be submitted to PIAB. If your employer refuses to admit liability at the start of the process, the matter can then proceed to court once an authorisation has been issued. And if either you or your employer do not accept the PIAB assessment of the value of the claim, then the matter will also proceed to Court.

While it is possible to submit an accident at work personal injuries claim to PIAB, an injured person must be aware that there is a 2-year limitation period within which a personal injuries claim must be submitted to PIAB. Sometimes an employer can successfully raise a defence arguing that a sub-contractor or supplier of a defective item of machinery was the only person with any legal liability. For these reasons it is crucial to have the right solicitor working with you from the beginning.

Medical Negligence

Medical misadventure is a complicated area of law.

Your doctor owes you a duty of care and the extent of the duty of care involved and the obligations imposed on the doctor are complicated. Doctors have been the subject of many court cases both here and abroad. The duty of care owed to a patient by a doctor in a given set of circumstances, changes over time as medical teaching and knowledge advances.

As with any professional negligence action, you must be able to show the court that your doctor was negligent. To do this, your solicitor will review your medical records and obtain the opinion of a suitable expert, before proceedings can be instituted, to confirm whether or not your doctor was in breach of one of the many duties of care to you, resulting in some form of medical misadventure or personal injury due to medical malpractice.

Unlike many other professionals in Ireland, it is often not possible to obtain cooperation from an Irish-based doctor to give evidence against another Irish based doctor in court, unlike in the case of architects and engineers.

Accordingly, in the vast majority of cases it is necessary to retain the services of an expert based outside Ireland who is adequately qualified to comment on what the relevant duty of care or best practice is and to assess whether your doctor, for example, deviated from best practice or was negligent.

This process of having to obtain views of experts abroad is one of the most significant reasons why the legal fees in medical negligence cases are very costly.

Medical negligence cases are very complex indeed, and involve, as indicated above, sourcing the relevant experts from outside the country. Accordingly, it is very important that you engage an NSA solicitor who is an expert in the field of medical negligence.

*Note: In contentious business, a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.
* A solicitor acting in contentious business cannot charge a fee based on a percentage of any award.

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