Personal Injury Compensation
Introduction to Personal Injury Compensation
A lot has been written in the press about the volume of claims for personal injury compensation and fears that Ireland is developing a “compensation culture”. These claims are not new, and accusations such as these were being made in Ireland fifteen years ago – indeed, they were one of the factors that led to the establishment of the Personal Injury Assessment Board (now the Injuries Board Ireland) in 2003.
In the four years following its introduction, the Injuries Board Ireland cleared a backlog of thousands of personal injury compensation claims that had backed up the courts and were costing a fortune to litigate. The average length of time that it took for a claim for personal injury claim to be processed was reduced from three years to a little over six months and the Injuries Board Ireland now saves the Irish taxpayer in excess of €40 million each year. Because of the huge increase in claims that were settled by the new body, a perception grew that more people were claiming personal injury compensation when indeed the opposite is true.
Your Right to Personal Injury Compensation
Since 2003 – the year the Injuries Board Ireland was set up – , the number of registered vehicles on Ireland’s roads has increased by almost half, yet the number of claims made each year for personal injury compensation due to road traffic accidents has remained about the same. Furthermore, the number of workplace injuries that resulted in an absence of three days or longer has declined since 2002 by 28% according to statistics published by the Health and Safety Authority, and only the value of public liability personal injury compensation claims has increased in recent years – not the number.
There are many people who genuinely need compensation for the pain and suffering they have experienced and the losses they have incurred through no fault of their own. These people have a right to claim for personal injury compensation and should not be dissuaded by the feeling that they are claiming something to which they are not entitled. With a greater volume of information available through the Internet, everybody can have access to a solicitor and establish in advance whether they have a personal injury compensation claim which they are justified to pursue.
Do I Qualify for Personal Injury Compensation?
In order to qualify for personal injury compensation, you must have sustained an injury or loss which was due to the negligence of a third party who had a duty of care that they failed to perform. Car drivers – for example – have a duty of care to other road users when driving their vehicles to ensure that they drive safely and with due care and attention. Employers have a duty of care to their employees to provide a safe environment in which to work, and proprietors of shops, bars and restaurants have a responsibility to protect members of the public from danger while they are on their premises.
Accidents happen, but when they are caused by a reckless driver, the failure of an employer to implement safety regulations in the workplace or a restaurateur displaying a lack of care with food preparation, you are entitled to make a personal injury compensation claim against the negligent party to compensate for your loss. Sometimes, no amount of money can compensate in the event of wrongful death or catastrophic brain injury, but the long term financial security that a personal injury compensation claim can provide will ease some of the burden on those who have lost a loved one or who have to make changes to their lives to act as a permanent carer.
Medical Negligence and Personal Injury Compensation
You may also be able to make a personal injury claim against a medical practitioner who has caused you an injury due to their lack of care when treating you. A personal injury compensation claim in the event of medical negligence relies on the opinion of a medical expert to demonstrate that “on the balance of all probability”, the action – or lack of it – taken by your medical practitioner was not up to the standards that would be expected of that medical practitioner and was avoidable at the time the negligence took place.
Medical negligence can be applied in many different circumstances including surgical errors, missed diagnosis, unnecessary tooth extraction, hospital acquired infections and damage caused by a chiropractor, however, the same principles apply as when claiming any other type of personal injury compensation – you must have sustained an injury (or an existing condition was exacerbated) due to the negligence of somebody who had a duty of care towards you.
Health Comes Before Personal Injury Compensation
In all cases, your health must take precedence over making a personal injury compensation claim. No amount of personal injury compensation could ever atone for a life-changing condition which could have been prevented by timely medical intervention. Furthermore, when submitting your personal injury compensation claim to the Injuries Board Ireland, it has to be supported by your doctor’s report outlining the condition and the length of time it may take for you to recover. Without this information, your personal injury claim could be delayed and you have to undergo an independent medical examination to establish the severity of your injury.
By delaying a medical examination after sustaining an injury through the negligence of a third party, that third party may counter claim that you contributed to your injuries by your own lack of care. This counter claim is known as “contributory negligence” and would result in the Injuries Board Ireland declining to assess your personal injury compensation claim and issuing you with an authorisation to pursue your claim for personal injury compensation through the courts.
Litigation and Personal Injury Compensation
You may also have to finalise your claim for personal injury compensation in the courts if either you or the negligent party disagree with the assessment made by the Injuries Board Ireland. The Injuries Board Ireland will only assess the “value” of your personal injury claim – they will not determine liability or accept appeals against their decisions. However, the courts frown on their time being taken up by arguments over the value of personal injury compensation, and quite often an acceptable negotiated settlement can be agreed between your solicitor and the negligent party’s legal representatives.
All medical negligence cases have to go through the court process as judgements are made on medical opinion rather than tangible evidence. Here again, there is opportunity for a negotiated settlement which negates the necessity for a court appearance should your solicitor have compiled a sufficiently strong enough case. The only occasion on which a court appearance is guaranteed is when you are making a personal injury compensation claim on behalf of a child, as a judge’s approval is legally required before payment can be made.
Children and Personal Injury Compensation
There are several other variations when making a personal injury claim for a child. A child has to be represented by a parent or guardian if making a personal injury compensation claim before the age of eighteen. That parent or guardian acts as the child’s “next friend” and files a personal injury compensation claim on their behalf – although online applications are not permitted and the assessment of a child’s personal injury compensation claim has to be applied for through the post.
Children can claim at any time from the “date of knowledge” of any injury until two years after they reach the age of majority (adults only have the two years in which to claim) and, as mentioned above, a personal injury compensation settlement – regardless of whether it is agreed by assessment, negotiation or litigation – has to be approved by a court before payment can be made.
Personal Injury Compensation Summary
Personal injury compensation is a right you have to claim payment against a negligent third party when they have been responsible for causing you an injury or loss. There are many circumstances in which an accident can occur due to negligence by somebody who has a duty of care towards you or a loved one and, even when the consequences are not life changing it is unfair that you should suffer due to somebody else’s recklessness.
Most personal injury compensation settlements are paid for by the negligent party’s insurance company, so you have no reason to feel apprehensive for making a claim against a friend who was responsible for a vehicle collision in which you were injured, an employer with whom you have developed a good working relationship, or even your family doctor if he has been responsible for causing you pain and loss.
Speak With a Solicitor About Personal Injury Compensation
Even when you do not need legal representation to litigate your case or represent you in a child’s claim for personal injury compensation, it is always in your best interests to speak with a solicitor as soon as appropriate medical treatment has been administered. A solicitor will be able to advise you how much personal injury compensation you should expect to receive, enabling you to know whether the Injuries Board Ireland’s assessment is adequate and fair, or tell you if an offer of early settlement made by the negligent party’s insurance company represents what you are truly entitled to.
Most importantly, he will be able to advise you whether you are justified in making your personal injury compensation claim; freeing you from any guilt you may have felt about being part of a compensation culture and allowing you to focus on making a full recovery.
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