Personal Injury Claim: Our Solicitors Answer Your Questions

Our head solicitor of our Personal Injury Department Amanda Walsh is based in Dublin, in our Capel Building office. Recently, I asked her what are the most common questions clients asked about personal injury claims? Below are the questions that our Personal Injury team commonly respond to, and a brief answer to the questions.

Q 1. Do I have a personal injury claim?

Generally if you suffer an accident due to someone else’s fault you could have a personal injury claim. Or, if you can answer yes to either of the below questions, would give a good indication of you have injury claim eligibility:

Did the accident or incident cause me a visible injury, or pain (some injuries are not visible for example whiplash after a car accident), and not just damage to my property?
Do you suffer from psychological trauma as a result of the incident, for example depression or anxiety?
A personal injury claim enables you to recover compensation; for damages done to you physically, financially and/or psychologically.

There are many causes of personal injury from traffic accidents, trips and falls in public places, work accidents, medical mistakes etc., but, the accident generally should be the fault of another person(s) negligence.

No two personal injury claims are the same, many factors have to be taken into consideration. Even such factors as age and gender can impact on claims.

Q 2. When do I need to start the personal injury claims process? What is the time frame involved, and how long it will take to get a result?

So, you’ve been in an accident some time ago…maybe it’s too late to claim? Generally, in Ireland, you must start a personal injury claim within two years of the accident occurring. This is known as the statute of limitations, after the two years is up the case is barred. But, there can be some exceptions to the rule, for example, maybe the injured party was under 18 years old at the time of the accident.

The length of time it takes to process an injury claim can vary, but the Personal Injuries Assessment Board state that the average time frame is seven months. And we usually find it takes somewhere between six and nine months, then the payout of compensation normally happens within a month of finalisation from the Personal Injuries Board. But, if the claim ends up in the courts (litigation) the claim assessment could take up to three years.

Q 3. Who are the Personal Injuries Board and what to they do?

The Personal Injuries Board (PIAB) is Ireland’s independent government body that assess personal injury compensation claims. All personal injury claims go to PIAB (except Medical Negligence cases), unless the claim has been settled early by claimant and other parties involved. Your solicitor will deal with PIAB on your behalf.

PIAB will provide an assessment on your claim for compensation, its primary role is to quickly value claims and make awards that can be accepted or rejected by the claimant(s).

Q 4. Why are medical reports needed and what are the costs?

A medical report is required to prove that the reported accident caused the injuries that were sustained. This report will help prove injuries such as pain, loss and suffering; and details on the nature of the injury, the effects this will have on the injured and how long recovery is likely to take.

Your personal injury solicitor can request your medical reports, for you, from your doctor; reports need to be received within two months of the injured person being examined. Under Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004, there are severe sanctions for inaccurate medical reports — the reports should be as accurate as possible of the injuries sustained.

Fees for medical reports can vary. Different GPs will have different charges, reports could cost in the region of €100, and some could go up to €400. If specialist’s medical reports are required this will cost significantly more. The injured person that’s making the claim usually will have to pay for these reports; but can claim the payment back, if their case is successful.

Q 5. If my injury caused me to be off work, what do I do?

If you wish to claim compensation for the injury, you should proceed to claim with the help of your solicitor. But, in the meantime you may be entitled to benefits to compensate for your loss of earnings. There are two scenarios here:

1. Was it a workplace accident that caused the injury?

If the accident happened in work or on the way to work, you should report the accident to your employer. Then, you should check your employment contract for sick leave entitlements. In the case of no entitlements, you could still be eligible for Injury Benefit: a payment from the Department of Employment Affairs and Social Protection

2. Was it an accident caused somewhere other than the workplace?

If the injury now has caused you to take sick leave, you can apply for illness benefit, subject to PRSI conditions. If it was a serious accident that is causing you to take leave of at least one year, then a disability allowance might be available to you. Your local citizens information office will provide you more information on these payments.

Q 6. What are the costs of the case? How much compensation do I get?

Your solicitor will discuss fees with you, there might be a no win no fee agreement. This is common in personal injury cases, it means that if the case is not successful, the claimant won’t have to pay legal fees. Other typical fees for personal injury cases include the Personal Injuries Board Application PIAB fee, this is set at around €45. And, then there is your medical report fee, as previously discussed.

Compensation depends on many factors, but guideline payout amounts for different injuries can be found in the PIAB Book of Quantum. Or, if you wish to look up an estimate of the typical compensation for an injury, you might find a personal injury claim calculator useful; many of these calculators can be found online.

Q 7. Will the matter go to court? And will the case be in the media?

Not normally. Most, probably over 90%, of personal injury cases are settled before reaching a stage of having to go to court. Usually, if the case ends up in court it’s because the parties involved have failed to agree on a compensation outcome. But, your solicitor will still prepare your case as if it will be presented in the courts.

Other times that personal injury cases end up in court are due to the Personal Injuries Board declining the case; this could be due to the nature of the claim, time frames involved, issues with the insurance company or the claimant’s medical prognosis.

You will sometimes read about compensation payouts in the media. But the majority of claims won’t be in the news. Claims might make the headlines if there’s a high profile individual or organisation involved; a large settlement agreed; or, the case is particularly unusual, e.g a lady sued Starbucks for putting too much ice in her… iced coffee! Yes, this happened.