Head Injury Compensation
Introduction to Head Injury Compensation
Head injuries come in many different forms and with a wide range of severity. Injuries to the eyes, ears or mouth can affect our ability to communicate with others, brain injuries can potentially paralyse certain functions of the body, and a whiplash injury can cause months of discomfort. The causes of head injuries are also numerous, and can cause devastating consequences to our lives and those dear to us. Therefore, whenever a head injury occurs due to the negligence of another person, it is essential that you receive adequate head injury compensation.
It is important to remember that head injury compensation is not just there for the physical trauma you experience due to somebody else’s lack of care. It also provides financial security to cope with the costs of ongoing care, changes to a person’s lifestyle, and even their home when a head injury has left the injured party in a wheelchair or blinded. Head injuries may also lead to psychological injury, with the injured party suffering from anxiety or depression, and any impact to the head could cause the victim to suffer from mild traumatic brain damage – even if this is not the primary injury.
Your Health Comes before Head Injury Compensation
Even though it is important that you are fully compensated when you have sustained a head injury due to somebody else’s negligence, it is essential that your first priority is your health. As soon as you have sustained any physical trauma to the head, you should have a medical examination. The symptoms of certain injuries – such as whiplash – may not manifest for several weeks and, all the time you are unaware that you are carrying an injury, you could be making the condition worse and handicapping your chances of a full recovery.
Furthermore, if you sustain an injury in an accident that was not wholly your fault, and fail to have an immediate medical examination, the negligent party in your head injury claim for compensation could counter-claim that you contributed to your injuries by your own negligence. This may result in you receiving less head injury compensation than you would normally be entitled to and risk your future financial security. Ideally, you should go straight to the accident and emergency department of your local hospital after sustaining a head injury and only after you have received a medical examination, should you contact a solicitor and discuss making a head injury compensation claim.
Making a Head Injury Compensation Claim
Except for circumstances in which your head injury is due to medical negligence, a claim for head injury compensation is dealt with by the Injuries Board Ireland. Your application for head injury compensation needs to be submitted (either by post or online) to the Injuries Board Ireland and supported by a report of your injuries from your doctor, any accident report which has been compiled by the Gardai or your employer, and receipts and financial documentation to justify your claim for special damages.
Special damages are the “out of pocket” expenses you incur as a result of your head injury. These could be relatively minimal if your post-accident medical treatment consists of a few visits to the hospital, but could be substantial should your injuries be catastrophic and you now require lifelong care. One of the most important reasons for consulting a solicitor as soon as you have received medical treatment for your head injury is to ascertain what special damages you are entitled to, and your solicitor will help you integrate these costs into your claim and advise you how much head injury compensation you should receive in total. This will be vital information in the later stages of the compensation process.
The Head Injury Compensation Process
The Injuries Board Ireland will acknowledge receipt of your head injury compensation claim and contact the person named in your application as the negligent party (the “Respondent”) to get their consent to proceed with the assessment. Once this is received, the Injuries Board Ireland may require that you attend an independent medical examination to assess the current state of your head injury and the length of time it may take for you to make a full recovery.
It will then issue a Notice of Assessment, informing you and the respondent how much head injury compensation they feel you should receive. If you and the respondent are in agreement about the amount, a Notice to Pay is issued and your head injury compensation claim is settled. The whole process will take on average a little over six months once the application for head injury compensation is submitted.
Head Injury Compensation Litigation
If however, the Respondent denies their responsibility for your injuries, or claims that you contributed to them by your own lack of care (for example by not wearing a seat belt in a road traffic accident), the Injuries Board Ireland will issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your claim for head injury compensation in the courts. This will also happen if their assessment of head injury compensation is disputed by either party and explains why it is important to know in advance how much head injury compensation you are entitled to.
Court action is also necessary in head injury compensation claims when expert professional opinion is required to determine liability – such as in alleged medical negligence cases – however your solicitor will be trying to negotiate a settlement for you well before litigation is necessary, and only use this option as a last resort. Generally, a third of head injury claims are settled in court, with the remainder resolved by negotiation or acceptance of the Injuries Board Ireland’s assessment.
Head Injury Compensation and Third Party Capture
Another reason why you should be aware of how much head injury compensation you are entitled to is “third party capture”. This phrase relates to an approach by the negligent party’s insurance company – usually very soon after an accident in which their client has been negligent – with an offer of early settlement. In an upset physical and emotional condition, you may be tempted to accept their offer, but it is usually much less than you could expect to receive in the Injuries Board Ireland’s assessment.
Their approach is not necessarily a bad thing, as it opens the door for negotiation between your solicitor and representatives of the negligent party’s insurance company. If your solicitor has already constructed a strong case to support your head injury claim, you may find that you receive a full, fair and adequate settlement of your head injury claim long before you receive notice if the Injury Board Ireland’s assessment.
Children and Head Injury Compensation
Certain conditions apply when making a claim for head injury compensation on behalf of a child. Children are exempt from the Statute of Limitations which states that a head injury compensation claim has to made within two years of the date on which you knew a head injury had occurred – legally, the “date of knowledge”. Head injury compensation claims on behalf of children can be made to the Injuries Board Ireland (although not online) at any stage prior to their eighteenth birthday, with a parent or guardian acting as their “next friend”.
Because head injuries to children can have more significant long term consequences, there really should not be any delay in seeking professional legal assistance as soon as your child has received medical attention for their injury. As head injury compensation settlements for children need court approval before they can be paid – irrespective of how the settlement is arranged – you will need legal representation in any event. It is best for you, and the child, if you arrange this at your earliest possible opportunity.
Head Injury Compensation Summary
There are nearly as many ways in which to sustain a head injury as there are different types of head injury. Many of them are not visible on the surface, so it is essential that you make health your priority any time you sustain a head injury in an accident for which you were not totally to blame. Once you have received medical attention, there are a number of benefits to making early contact with a solicitor – not least to avoid being persuaded by an insurance company that their early offer of head injury compensation is the best settlement you are going to get.
You have two years from the date of knowledge of a head injury in which to make a head injury compensation claim and, because of the complexity of your injury and its consequences, it may take much of that time to construct the strongest possible head injury claim on your behalf. Therefore, do not hesitate, once you have been diagnosed with a head injury through somebody else’s negligence, and speak with a solicitor about your entitlement to head injury compensation.