Back Injury Compensation
Introduction to Back Injury Compensation
Back injuries are one of the most common reasons for a personal injury compensation claim in Ireland due to the high number of people who suffer musculoskeletal injuries in the workplace. These injuries – which are second only to the common cold as reasons for taking time off sick from work – are frequently sustained due to manual handling tasks, repetitive stress actions or a slip and fall, and many of them could be avoided if employers followed the health and safety regulations published in various Safety Health and Welfare at Work Acts.
Back injury compensation claims may also result from road traffic accidents and public liability incidents – when you have slipped on a wet surface in a shop or tripped over on a poorly maintained footpath – and the medical profession, particularly chiropractors, are not exempt from being responsible for a back injury claim. Provided that you can demonstrate that you have sustained an injury which, in part at least, is due to another person’s negligence, you are entitled to claim back injury compensation.
What To Do after Sustaining a Back Injury
Depending on the severity of your back injury, either an ambulance should be summoned or you should visit your local hospital as soon as possible. In the event of a road traffic accident, the Gardai will not attend unless there is a serious injury, so you should exchange insurance details with the other drivers involved in the accident and take photos of the accident scene with your mobile phone to support your back injury claim. Once you have received treatment for your back injury, visit your local Garda station and make a report to them – ensuring that you have a copy before you leave the station.
Back injuries sustained at work need to be recorded in your employer’s “Accident Report Book” and all places of public access (such as shops, libraries and hospitals) should have a similar book in which incidents which result in a personal injury are recorded. It is important to remember that your health comes before a back injury compensation claim, and you should not risk further damage to your back by neglecting to seek a medical examination. No amount of back injury compensation will atone for a lifelong health problem which could have been avoided with timely medical attention.
Making a Back Injury Compensation Claim
Except in cases where your back injury is due to alleged medical negligence, an application for back injury compensation should be sent to the Injuries Board Ireland. The application can be completed on Form A available from the Injuries Board Ireland or online (except in the case of back injuries to children), but must be accompanied by all the documentary evidence in support of your back injury claim. These documents should include a copy of the Gardai/employer/other accident report record and a medical form (Form B) completed by your doctor.
Your application form should also include details of any “out of pocket” expenses which you have borne due to your injury. There are many different expenses which qualify for “special damages” and can include the cost of medical treatment, alternative transport arrangements if you cannot drive and current/future loss of earnings. As the nature of all back injuries is that they are debilitating and require the maximum amount of rest, it is likely that a claim for back injury compensation could include a substantial loss of earnings claim, and it is essential that you seek professional legal advice when completing the application form for special expenses to ensure you are not undercompensated for your back injury.
What Happens Next?
The Injuries Board Ireland will approach the negligent party (or their insurers) and get their consent to proceed with an assessment of your back injury compensation claim – effectively, the negligent party has to confirm their negligence within 90 days in order for the Injuries Board Ireland to proceed with your back injury claim. If the negligent party fails to respond, denies their responsibility for your injury or claims that you contributed to it by you own lack of care (for example, if you were not wearing a seat belt in a road traffic accident), the Injuries Board Ireland will issue you with an authorisation to pursue your back injury claim through the courts.
If the negligent party acknowledges that they were responsible for your injury, the Injuries Board Ireland will usually arrange for you to have an independent medical examination (although this is not necessary in all cases), from which they will gauge the extent of your injuries and the length of time you may need to recover from them. They then weigh up this information against the Book of Quantum – a publication which lists physical injuries and gives them a compensation “value” – and issue a Notice of Assessment (stating how much back injury compensation you should receive) which, if both parties agree to the assessment, is followed with a “Notice to Pay”.
The Courts and Back Injury Compensation
If the final assessment by the Injuries Board Ireland is unacceptable to either party, there is a dispute surrounding liability or your back injury claim is due to a professional negligence issue, your claim for back injury compensation will be litigated in court. If you have used a solicitor to assist you with your application to the Injuries Board Ireland, your solicitor will have already constructed the strongest possible case on your behalf and often your back injury compensation claim can be settled by negotiation without the need for a court appearance.
In cases of professional negligence, your solicitor will seek the opinion of a medical expert to establish that “in the balance of all probability” your injuries were avoidable and due to a lack of skill by the medical professional, or a failure to demonstrate that skill. Again, with a sufficiently strong case, your claim for back injury compensation will often be concluded by negotiation and the only time a court appearance will be required is in the case that the injury victim is a child – in which case court approval is required before any compensation settlement can be paid.
Psychological Back Injury Compensation
At a time when you are likely to get frustrated at your inability to perform regular daily functions (even giving your children a hug may be barred during rehabilitation treatment), psychological injuries such as anxiety and depression have been known to develop. Most experts agree that victims of a serious accident suffer some level of post traumatic stress disorder as a result of their physical trauma and if, for example, you have damaged your back after a fall from height or in a road traffic accident, your confidence to climb a ladder or drive a car could be severely affected.
As mentioned above, back injuries can be debilitating and there may be a long period of immobility before you can resume a normal life. Consequently, it is vital that your application to the Injuries Board Ireland is as comprehensive as possible, and includes every element of a back injury compensation claim that you may be entitled to receive. If you accept an assessment for back injury compensation which is inadequate for your needs, you cannot go back and ask for more.
Third Party Capture and Back Injury Compensation
This is particularly true if you accept an offer of early settlement from the negligent party’s insurance company, only to discover that the funds are exhausted before you are able to work again. Aware of the potential for substantial back injury compensation settlements, an insurance company may approach you just days after you have sustained an injury with an offer of back injury compensation. You may not even have had the opportunity to discuss your back injury claim with a solicitor.
Although the insurance company’s offer may seem attractive at a time when you may be concerned about your short term financial security, it is still in your best interests to discuss their approach with a solicitor. Although their initial offer may be inappropriate in relation to your injuries, the fact that they have made the first approach shows that they know their client is liable and they should be willing to negotiate with your solicitor to avoid the potential of a lengthy and expensive (for them) claims procedure.
Back Injury Compensation Summary
A back injury should not be taken lightly. Failure to have a medical examination after the smallest accident could lead to lifelong health problems. If your accident is due to another’s negligence, there is a genuine risk of being undercompensated if you attempt the process of a back injury compensation claim without professional legal advice. The Statute of Limitations allows two years from the “date of knowledge” of a back injury in which to make a back injury compensation claim, but due to the complicated procedures which may be involved in obtaining adequate back injury compensation it is in your best interests to discuss a claim for back injury compensation with a solicitor at your earliest possible opportunity.