In April 2021, new Personal Injury Guidelines were published by the Judicial Council.
By amended Section 99 of the Judicial Council Act 2019, which in turn amends Section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, the 2021 Act provides that the Guidelines will apply to the assessment of damages in all personal injuries actions commenced on or after 24 April 2021.
While not all of the Judicial Council were in favour of the new the Guidelines, the majority of the Council voted to implement them.
1. What are the Personal Injury Guidelines?
The Personal Injury Guidelines aim to improve the consistency of awards given in personal injury claim cases in Ireland. As of the 24th April, 2021, the assessment of awards of damages for the majority of personal injuries will be set by these guidelines. If Court proceedings were issued before this date, then the new Personal Injury Guidelines may not apply.
The Personal Injury Guidelines were preceded by the Book of Quantum. Though similar in some ways to the Book of Quantum in terms of categories of injury etc., the Personal Injury Guidelines are more detailed and specific.
2. Why were the new Personal Injury Guidelines introduced?
The Personal Injury Guidelines aim to prevent the perceived disparity between awards given in different cases where the injuries are deemed similar. It is also hoped that the Injury Guidelines will result in lower insurance costs. The reality of that desire remains to be seen.
3. How do the Guidelines work?
The Guidelines are a consultative tool for Judges to assist them in their decisions on the quantum of damages to award in personal injuries claims. The new Guidelines offer a more detailed direction for all Judges and parties involved. Personal injuries are divided into categories with a guide as to the amount of compensation to be applied to each such personal injury.
A Judge still has discretion to depart from the Guidelines and award more or less than the amount of compensation suggested in the Guidelines.
New categories have also been added to the Guidelines, expanding on the categories found in the Book of Quantum. The new categories include psychiatric injuries, which were not included in the Book of Quantum.
The Guidelines also contain guidance on how to consider the amount of compensation to be awarded for injuries where claimants have pre-existing conditions or in cases where claimants have multiple injuries. For example, for pre-existing conditions, Judges will consider the extent and duration of the aggravation of the pre-existing condition. For multiple injury cases, the Guidelines dictate that the most severe injury should be identified.
Like the Book of Quantum, the Personal Injury Guidelines will be re-assessed every three years.
4. Do the new Guidelines mean lower compensation amounts for personal injury claims?
Not necessarily. While it is believed that, for example, the amount of compensation for a whiplash injury has decreased, the amount to be awarded other categories of injury have increased. Further, as stated above, a Judge still has discretion to depart from the Injury Guidelines and award more (or less) than the amount of compensation suggested in the Guidelines. It is also important to note that each case is different and the impact of an injury on each claimant is different.
The Guidelines require that the Judge consult with the parties involved at the end of each trial as to which are the dominant and most severe injuries and which, in the parties view, is the appropriate category on which to base the award of damages.
5. What do the Injury Guidelines cover?
The Personal Injuries Guidelines include a very detailed breakdown of injury types, including, but not limited to:
- Injuries resulting in foreshortened life expectancy.
- Injuries involving paralysis including quadriplegia, paraplegia.
- Head injuries including brain damage, minor head injuries, established epilepsy and other epileptic conditions.
- Psychiatric damage including severe to moderate damage and Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD).
- Injuries affecting the senses including injuries affecting sight, hearing, taste and smell.
- Injuries to internal organs including chest injuries, lung disease, asthma and other respiratory conditions, digestive system, male/female reproductive system, kidney, bowel, bladder, spleen, hernia.
- Orthopaedic injuries including, but not limited to, neck injuries, back injuries, pelvis and hips, shoulder injuries, amputation of an arm, other arm injuries, injuries to the elbow, wrist injuries, hand injuries and injuries to thumb and fingers, thumb injuries, vibration white finger (VWF) and/or hand arm vibration syndrome (HAVS), other upper limb disorders.
- Chronic pain including CPRS and other pain issues.
- Facial Injuries including disfigurement
- Damage to teeth.
- Scarring and burns.
- Damage to hair.
- Dermatitis and other skin conditions including dermatitis, eczema, and psoriasis.