So, you have had an accident, be it a road traffic accident or an injury at work, where do you go now?
In Ireland the majority of injury claims begin in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) which is an independent state body which assesses personal injury claims. PIABs aim was to reduce the amount of time it takes for a personal injury case to be resolved in order to save time and money. Since its introduction, PIAB states that it has managed to significantly reduce the time it takes to progress a personal injury matter from approximately 3 years to 9 months.
There is a two-year time limit in which you must commence a personal injury claim. The two-year period starts from the time the injury is sustained. For example, in a road traffic accident, it is the date the accident occurred. If you do not start the claims process within the two-year limit, then your claim can no longer be brought unless you were labouring under a disability or were under the age of 18 at the time, which could have prevented you from bringing your claim or of knowing of your entitlement to do so.
- Speak with your solicitor
The Law Society of Ireland recommends that people who are making a personal injury claim use a solicitor in their dealings with PIAB. They state that legal representation is necessary to guarantee the rights of victims of accidents against the interests of big business and the insurance industry. Although the process can be completed without the need for a solicitor, there are some legal areas that can be difficult to navigate without an expert solicitor to assist you through the process. It ensures that your claim runs as smoothly and as quickly as possible without any setbacks during the application process.
Most importantly to begin you will need to have specific accident details, details of the injury, details of any previous injuries/conditions/accidents, list of expenses incurred as a result of the accident such as medical bills, etc (known as ‘special damages’) and details of the other person or persons involved. It is very important that you have identified the correct person or persons involved (known as the Respondent) when you are making your application.
- Medical Reports
It is an absolute necessity that you have a medical report to confirm your injuries to begin your application. Doctors will very often only provide a medical/legal report to a solicitor. A prognosis from the doctor, estimated time for recovery and also details of necessary treatment is needed for your case. In some cases, a traumatic accident may result in the patient seeking psychological treatment and your solicitor will also request a report from the psychologist that treated you.
- Assessment of your claim
PIAB, upon receipt of your application, will notify the Respondent of your claim against them and PIAB will then proceed to assess the details of your claim. If your claim is against someone who was insured, such as a road traffic accident, the insurance company may attempt to settle the matter at this stage.
It is not the role of PIAB to decide on liability or fault, their role is to assess the appropriate level of compensation for the injuries described in the report. At the conclusion of the assessment process, PIAB will advise both you, as the claimant and the other person or persons involved, of the sum that they have assessed as appropriate. You and the Respondent can either accept or reject that sum and whether you both agree to the suggested compensation amount will determine the next steps in your claim. There are therefore two options to proceed as follows:
- Order to Pay
If you and the Respondent agree to the suggested compensation amount, the Injuries Board will issue an ‘Order to Pay’ which orders the person at fault to pay the compensation to you.
- Authorisation to Move to Court Proceedings
If you, or the Respondent, do not agree with the Injuries Board suggested compensation amount then you will be issued with an Authorisation to move the claim forward and issue legal proceedings to resolve the matter and the Court can then decide the question of fault if it has not already been decided.
- PIAB Time limits
Once PIAB receives your application, they have a period of nine months in which to assess your claim. If they cannot assess your claim in the initial nine-month period, they will notify you and the person at fault to request an extension on this time to review and assess your case.
In a situation where you are issued an Authorisation to move to Court proceedings, you have 6 months from the date of issuance to issue legal proceedings and bring the personal injury claim to court.
- Personal Injuries Guidelines
The guidelines are what was formerly known as the “Book of Quantum” and are a general guide as to how much money may be awarded for a personal injury claim. They do not fully determine the amount of compensation that may be payable.
Some significant changes have been introduced due to the implementation of new legislative requirements as set out in the Personal Injuries Resolution Board Act 2022 which was enacted in December 2022. In the first instance the Injuries Board are changing their name to the Personal Injuries Resolution Board which reflects the expansion of its remit. This expansion includes the ability of the Board to deal with claims of a wholly psychological nature and those where an injury is more long-term.
A difficult requirement of the new legislation is the need to provide a detailed medical report with the initial application as referred to in the process above. Very often people are not aware of the time limits involved in commencing a personal injuries claim and many clients come to their solicitor some time after an accident has occurred which means they may be at risk of running over the strict time limits. Previously, you could submit an application to PIAB in order to ‘stop the clock’ which allowed you and your solicitor time to obtain the necessary proofs. Now it appears this is now longer permitted and an application cannot be made without a medical report. This could prove a barrier to people who, for whatever reason, delay their application. Very often the delay can simply be a reluctant claimant who decides late in the day to bring their claim because they realise that their injuries have had a more detrimental effect on their life than originally anticipated or they simply have not recovered as expected. In addition, and to further add to this struggle, generally the initial medical report is completed by the injured party's GP. We have long heard of the pressure that GPs are under to see their patients and they will now have the added pressure of having to prepare detailed reports under time constraints.
A positive move in the legislation is the introduction of a mediation service. When introduced, later in the year, mediation through PIAB will allow the parties involved in a claim, led by an independent mediator, to come to a mutually acceptable agreement to resolve their claim using a non-adversarial process. A broad range of issues can be mediated including liability and the total amount of compensation to be paid. Mediation is a quick, flexible and successful way to resolve even complex and sensitive issues.
Wolfe & Co LLP are experts in the field of personal injuries litigation and are here to guide and assist you throughout the process.
By Aislinn Collins Solicitor.
This article is for general information purposes/general overview only and does not constitute legal or other professional advice. We recommend seeking legal advice to interpret and advise on any aspect of the law.
July 2023 Wolfe & Co. LLP Solicitors