Reasons for High Court Personal Injury Cases
Despite the fact that over eighty per cent of personal injury compensation claims in Ireland are settled out of court, there are some instances where high court personal injury cases are necessary – the most complex cases, medical negligence for example, or industrial disease claims, cases where there is questionable doubt over liability and cases where a settlement cannot be satisfactorily reached between all parties involved.
In some cases, high court action is the only rational next step when both parties have to take some responsibility for the injuries which were the result of an accident and the balance of proof as to who was “more” to blame comes into question.
It must be said, however, that with the assistance of an experienced solicitor, every effort is made to successfully come to a settlement figure which is acceptable to both parties before high court action is required.
Examples of Personal Injury Cases in the High Court
High court personal injury compensation cases for medical negligence are common, especially when there is doubt over liability for death or serious injury. These claims are often difficult to prove, especially with operations that carry known risks and with complicated births when injury or death may have been unpreventable according to the attending obstetrician.
Some road traffic accidents may be brought to the high court in order to receive adequate compensation. Such cases occur even when a party has been deemed liable at a lower court. In cases involving uninsured drivers, bringing a personal injury claim to the high court may be the only option to make sure that a sufficient payment is awarded to cover medical expenses and other related costs.
Cases where an employee has contracted a serious or terminal disease in the workplace that has taken years to manifest may have to be heard in the high court. For example, asbestos related diseases can take years to develop and during the intervening time the business may have closed. Instances have been reported where insurance companies who have been ordered to pay a settlement have withheld the money as they maintained that the suit was instigated because of the onset of disease and not because of exposure to a dangerous substance, thus making high court action inevitable.
Action to Take Before a High Court Case
H3: Injuries Board Ireland
Before high court personal injury compensation claims can even be considered it must be made known that every personal injury claim must be assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland (apart from medical negligence claims).
To make a personal injury claim for compensation you can submit your application for assessment either online or by post.
The following documentation is required for you to complete your application:
- A completed Application Form (Form A)
- A Medical Assessment Form (Form B) completed by your treating doctor
- Receipts and bills for any financial loss that you have incurred as a result of your accident and any other documentation that you may deem relevant to your claim
- Payment of 45 Euro for postal applications and 40 Euro for online applications
When the Board has received your application it will issue a receipt for the fee and an application number. It will then contact the person you hold responsible for your injury (the respondent) and request consent for your assessment. If the respondent gives their consent the assessment will go ahead, if they do not you will be issued with an “authorisation” allowing you to continue your claim through the courts.
If the assessment is carried out and one or both parties involved do not accept the amount of compensation proposed by the Board, you will be issued with an authorisation to pursue court action.
Settling your Case Out of Court
There is a possibility that you may settle your personal injury compensation claim out of court through direct negotiations between both parties’ legal representatives. Often, a settlement is reached before the trial date or sometimes even hours before the trial.
If the negligent party wishes to offer you money to end your claim and you are prepared to settle out of court, your solicitor will arrange a settlement meeting where you will be advised on the advantages and disadvantages of accepting the offer made by the negligent party. Your solicitor would also advise on how successful your case may be at trial and how much in compensation you may receive in court.
If negotiations prove unsatisfactorily, you can elect to proceed to court.
The High Court Case
The format of high court personal injury cases will rely on whether or not the defendant (negligent party) admits responsibility for your injuries.
If the defendant has not admitted to being at fault, the trial will follow this structure:
- Your barrister will outline the nature of the case and the injuries you sustained to the judge
- Your doctor may give medical evidence
- You will be called to the witness stand to give evidence as to the circumstances of the accident and your subsequent injuries, and you may be cross-examined by the defendant’s barrister
- All the other witnesses on your side will give evidence and will be cross examined by the defendants barrister
- All the defendants witnesses will be called and your barrister will cross-examine
- Both barristers may make submissions to the judge, by summarising or emphasising certain evident or making legal arguments
The judge will make his or her decision based on whether the defendant was to blame and is therefore liable to pay damages to you, the amount of damages to which you are entitled as a result of your injuries and who shall pay the costs of the proceedings.
If the defendant in the case has admitted to being responsible but you are not satisfied with the amount offered as settlement, then the matter will be sent to a court for judgment exclusively on the amount of damages.
Risks Associated with High Court Personal Injury Cases and Interim Payments
In most high court personal injury cases, the risk of a protracted legal fight and the expenses attributed may make it worthwhile to settle out of court, rather than take it to court where there is no guarantee that the case will rule in your favour. The cost of pursuing a high court claim is often a major worry in many cases, as is the length of time it may take to receive a settlement, especially in cases of serious injury where there is a rapidly increasing medical bill.
However, in cases where negligence has been admitted by a third party and it is just a matter of agreeing to the final settlement amount, there is the possibility of receiving an interim payment. Even where negligence is denied, interim payments may be applicable when the case is particularly strong.
High Court Cases for Personal Injury – Summary
- High Court Personal Injury Cases are not as common as some may think; in fact, most cases are settled before the trial date
- Only the most complex cases (medical negligence, for example), cases where liability is in question and cases where a compensation figure cannot be agreed on go to the high court
- The majority of personal injury cases must first go through the Injuries Board Ireland
- There is the possibility of receiving interim payments before the case is finalised, to provide the plaintiff with enough money to cover medical expenses
If you have sustained an injury in an accident for which you were not to blame and you believe that you may have a viable personal injury claim, you would be well advised to engage a solicitor at the first possible moment. A qualified solicitor would be able to assist you with compiling your Injuries Board application, could enter negotiations with the negligent party’s legal representative and could represent you in court should the need occur.