The new personal injuries guidelines came into force on 24 April 2021. The guidelines were drafted and approved by the Judicial Council.
The guidelines aim to achieve greater consistency in awards for personal injuries and provide legal certainty for all parties involved. They have been drafted to eliminate any inconsistencies between judge’s awards.
The committee describes such quantification as a “somewhat artificial task” that, unsurprisingly, leads to widely varying damages awards.
The new guidelines come as a replacement for the existing Book Of Quantum and will dramatically reduce the value of general damages with the outcome that only the most severe type of injury would be litigated in the High Court and command general damages over €60,000.
The Book Of Quantum will remain applicable where PIAB (Personal Injuries Assessment Board) made an assessment before the 24th of April 2021 and was unaccepted or to proceedings commenced before the 24th of April 2021. Thus, there will be a period of a two-tier system active where both the Book of Quantum and the guidelines will be effective.
From the 24th of April onwards, for cases that come under the new guidelines, it will be mandatory for judges to make assessments concerning the guidelines. If they wish to depart from them, they are obliged to state the justification in any case for doing so.
Compared to the Book of Quantum, the categories of injuries in the guidelines have broadened as they now include brackets for psychiatric injuries, pain disorders and a valuation on scarring previously excluded by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). According to the Book of Quantum, the potential compensation figure is up to €15,700. In contrast, the guidelines begin their valuation at €500 and work their way up to €12,000 as per the recovery period.
The guidelines additionally set out factors that must be considered by the trial judge when assessing the award, even as they still provide a potential range of the award. Damages must be:
- – Equitable and fair for both claimant and defendant,
- – Proportionate to the injuries sustained, and
- – Proportionate when viewed in the context of the award of damages
We anticipate that there will be an increase in district court litigation given a significant number of minor and whiplash-type injuries now fall within its jurisdiction.
As a part of the government’s action plan for Insurance Reform, it aspires that the guidelines will result in insurance companies incurring lower legal fees and accordingly reduce premiums as claims begin and end in lower courts.
Ireland is aligned with other common law jurisdictions through the new reform guidelines and they might present Ireland as more attractive to International Insurers. However, whether the District Court has capacity to deal with the expected influx of personal injuries claims remains unclear.
Personal injury solicitors are waiting with anticipation to see how judges will apply and use these guidelines and what the future of personal injuries litigation will look like.