Practical Implications of the new Personal Injuries Guidelines
The Personal Injuries Guidelines were approved by the Judicial Council on the 6th March 2021. The Judicial Council is a body composed of all judges in Ireland. The purpose of the guidelines as set out in the document is “to promote a better understanding of the principles governing the assessment and award of damages for personal injuries with a view to achieving greater consistency in awards notwithstanding that cases will invariably have their own unique features”.
When do the new Guidelines come into effect?
The guidelines now apply to all cases assessed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) after the commencement date of the 24th April 2021. Where a Personal Injury claim is assessed by PIAB before the commencement date, the matter will be assessed based on the Book of Quantum (i.e. under the old guidelines). Any claims assessed after the 24th April 20201 will be subject to the new Guidelines.
How the new Guidelines affect my existing Personal Injury Claim
Some confusion arose in legal circles as to how the new guidelines apply to existing Personal Injury Claims.
Essentially, where a personal injury claim is assessed prior to the commencement date, any subsequent court proceedings issued arising from the rejection of such an assessment will be based on the Book of Quantum (old guidelines).
Where a personal injury claim is assessed on or after the commencement date, any subsequent court proceedings issued arising from the rejection of such an assessment will be based on the new Personal Injury Guidelines.
Furthermore, where court proceedings were issued prior to the commencement date (ie all existing proceedings prior to the 24th April 2021), the Book of Quantum will continue to apply.
Application of the new Guidelines
The Courts are now required to take into account the guidelines when making an assessment of damages for new Personal Injury claims. The general criteria under the guidelines to be considered by the Courts in assessing the appropriate level of award in each category/sub-category of injuries are as follows:
ii. Reduction in life expectancy;
iii. Nature and extent of the treatment; and
iv. Impact on work and prognosis.
Consequently, a greater onus is now placed on the Courts and a Court may only depart from these guidelines where it is justified in doing so and will be required to explain their reasoning in their Judgment.
Book of Quantum v The Personal Injuries Guidelines – The Differences
While there are some similarities between the Book of Quantum and the new Guidelines, the most notable differences in the new Guidelines relate to the new categories of personal injuries and the new level of damages for a number of those categories of injuries.
i. New categories of Injuries
The Guidelines include twelve categories of injuries with new sub-categories which include psychological injuries, injuries involving scarring and chronic pain. These categories of injuries were not included in the Book of Quantum and in particular, cases involving solely psychological injuries were not assessed by PIAB and authorisations to allow court proceedings to be issued would usually follow soon after such an application is submitted with PIAB.
ii. Reduction in level of damages for minor injuries
The most significant departure from the Book of Quantum comes in the area of minor injuries and soft tissue injuries. For example, under the Book of Quantum, a minor neck whiplash injury has a guideline of damages of up to €19,400 whereas the new Guidelines provide that the same injury will be assessed in the region of €500 - €12,000 depending on the length of the recovery period.
Another example of this reduction for minor injuries can be seen in respect of minor wrist injuries. The Book of Quantum outlines that a minor wrist injury could result in an award of damages as high as €43,500 whereas the new Guidelines outline that the level of damages that can be recovered for such an injury will be between €500 -€18,000, again depending on the recovery period.
iii. Increase in level of damages for catastrophic injuries
Although the new Guidelines represents a general trend downwards in terms of damages awarded for different categories of injuries, it is important to note that the highest award for general damages arising from catastrophic injuries has been increased. In the Supreme Court decision of Ruth Morrissey and Paul Morrissey v Health Service Executive, Quest Diagnostics Incorporated and Medlab Pathology Limited [19 March 2020], the Court upheld the trial judge’s finding in the matter that the “cap” on general damages for pain and suffering was €500,000.
However, the new Guidelines have increased this cap to €550,000 for catastrophic injuries. This is evident in the first three categories of injuries outlined in the new guidelines, namely:
i) Injuries resulting in Foreshortened Life Expectancy;
ii) Injuries involving Paralysis; and
iii) Head Injuries.
For more information regarding the level of damages awarded for injuries as set out in the Book of Quantum and the new Personal Injuries Guidelines, please see the following links:
Should you wish to discuss your personal injury claim, please feel free to contact our personal injury Solicitors in Dublin no obligation consultation.
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