The Role of the Injuries Board in Ireland

What role does the Injuries Board play in Ireland?

The Injuries Board, a body independent of the Government, was established by the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) Act of 2003 in an effort to minimise the time it was taking to resolve personal injury claims and save the taxpayer money when claims were made against the State,.

The Injuries Board has succeeded in its main aims of reducing the average amount of time taken to resolve a personal injury claim, from three years to nine months, and registering considerable savings to the State, roughly half a billion Euros to the end of 2011, since the PIAB Act was introduced.

The Injuries Board acts as an assessor for plaintiffs who have suffered an injury in an accident which was not their fault. The Board rules how much personal injury compensation should be paid to the plaintiff by the negligent party’s insurance firm. The Injuries Board makes this assessment based on the information that they are provided with by the plaintiff and the process, as such, is document only.

Injuries Board – Recent History

It became a legal requirement in June 2012, according to the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code 2012 Article 7.7, for insurance companies to advise all potential plaintiffs that they have the option of filing their compensation claim through the Injuries Board without the use of a solicitor or legal representative. Guidance provided to official plaintiffs is to be concluded with the following line: “any fees paid to a solicitor generally come out of whatever damages may be secured”.

Patricia Byron, Chief Executive of the Injuries Board Ireland, was later criticised for making a statement to the media commenting that “employing a solicitor did not increase a plaintiff´s chance of getting a higher reward”. Ken Murphy – the General Secretary of the Law Society of Ireland – responded by stating that 95 per cent of personal injury compensation claims in Ireland were made using a qualified solicitor and that potential plaintiffs were “well advised” to use legal representation.

The process followed when making a claim through the Injuries Board is described below along with some potential roadblocks that may be encountered by those unfamiliar with registering a personal injury compensation claim. It also details how these mistakes may be avoided by seeking legal guidance and using a fully-qualified solicitor, along with what the real cost of using a solicitor is when making a compensation claim through the Injuries Board.

It is envisaged that the information provided will allow you to decide what course of action you should follow when making your injury compensation claim and whether you should use a solicitor to make your claim for personal injury compensation through the Injuries Board. It is advisable that you speak directly with a qualified solicitor who is used to dealing with compensation claims and will provide you with neutral and unbiased information about personal injury claims in Ireland.

Injuries Board Ireland: Procedure for Making a Compensation Claim

The process involving making a claim for personal injury compensation through the Injuries Board is simple to follow. The injured party fills out application Form A – either the paper copy or the online version available on the Injuries Board web site – and submits it with Form B, the official record of the medical examination completed by a GP, and records of expenses and you are seeking to have covered in the claim.

The Injuries Board will contact the alleged negligent party (known as the “Respondent”) in the claim – once they have received the completed forms and 45 Euro processing fee – and seek permission from the Respondent to consent to an assessment of the personal injury compensation claim. After this point the respondent has 90 days to either consent to the assessment or disagree with your claim. If they should contest that they were solely responsible for your injuries you will be given authorisation to proceed with a compensation claim through the courts. The Injuries Boards will play no part in a potential court hearing to resolve liability in a personal compensation claim.

The plaintiff (i.e. you) may be asked to undergo a further medical assessment during the following month, at the expense of the Injuries Board once the Respondent agrees to the claim. This may be necessary to establish a number of things including the time it is taking you to recover from the injury. The result of the medical examination can play a large part in finalising how much compensation you are awarded by the Injuries Board.

Normally the results of the assessment carried out by the Injuries Board are provided to the plaintiff and the Respondent within seven to nine months of the initial application for assessment being received. Once both parties agree to the findings an Order to Pay is issued and you should receive payment from the Respondent’s insurance company soon after that. There being no agreement from either one of the parties involved an ‘Authorisation’ will be issued for you to pursue your compensation directly through the courts.

The Injuries Board Assessment: How it Works

‘The Book of Quantum’, a publication including a categorisation of the various types of injury along with a financial value according to the severity of the specific injury, is used to assess the value each claim. Once this value is decided upon it is readjusted taking factors into account like age of the plaintiff, gender (in some cases) and normal physical well-being of the plaintiff prior to the injury.

Once this figure – known as ‘General Damages’ – is calculated it accounts for the main element of the majority of personal injury claims settled by the Injuries Board of Ireland. However, there are a number of other considerations to be figured which may account for an even more than the assessment of the damages awarded for the physical injury that has been suffered.

Injuries Board Assessment: What Should be Taken Into Account

An Injuries Board assessment should also include compensation for any measurable psychological trauma which has been included in your GP´s medical assessment and the recovery of any expenses you have incurred – or earnings you have lost – due to the negligence of the person who is to blame for the accident in which you were injured. This is in addition along to general damages for the physical suffering you sustained at the time of your injury occurring and throughout your recuperation.

It is also permitted that you make a compensation claim for any ill effect on your quality of life and ability to complete everyday tasks, etc. There is less opportunity to explain changes to your personal life in a claim for compensation through the Injuries Board of Ireland than there is in a court hearing due to the restrictions with the application form A. This could mean that the Injuries Board of Ireland have a difficulty in making an accurate assessment of the damages.

In reality, to ensure that you maximise your injury compensation claim you should have complete knowledge of how to file your claim along with a good awareness of every facet of Irish personal injury claims law – a quite unreasonable expectation as far as the Injuries Board is concerned and why the Law Society of Ireland suggest that potential plaintiffs are “well advised” to seek legal advice from a personal injury solicitor.

Authorisation for Court Action Issues by Injuries Boards Ireland

In the event that the negligent party in your claim refuses to recognise their liability and you are issued an Authorisation to pursue a court action by the Injuries Board, it still does not mean that you need to go to court so that the compensation claim can be resolved. Simply put, the Authorisation entitles you to take your claim to court in the event that the assessment of the Injuries Board is not agreed upon, or if a settlement cannot be reached through negotiation with the negligent party’s insurance company.

It is highly probable that your solicitor will counsel you to apply for an assessment through the Injuries Board even though a negotiated settlement looks likely. This is a positive course of action as it means that, should negotiations break down, you will not have to wait even longer as the action with the Injuries Board will already be moving forwards towards an award or permission to pursue a claim in court.

Injuries Board Claims Involving Children

Compensation claims through the Injuries Board involving children can only be taken by a parent or guardian acting in the child´s place as a “next friend”. Permission to act on behalf of a child can be obtained from the District Court with no appearance in front of a judge necessary; but a court appearance will be required when an assessment by the Injuries Board is agreed – as all injury compensation awards for children have to be cleared by a court before payment of the compensation settlement can be processed.

The procedure for making compensation claims for children through the Injuries Board in Ireland is no different from the procedures listed above – with the exception that applications on the Internet for assessment are not accepted and it is required that a hard copy of Application Form A be provided for purposes of assessment. Aside from this requirement, the other exception that might be applicable for claims through the Injuries Board for children is if your child has suffered due to medical negligence.

Medical Negligence Compensation Claims through the Injuries Board

Regardless of whether the plaintiff is a minor or an adult, the Injuries Board will decline all assessment applications which deal with medical negligence. This is due to the fact that in order for an Irish medical negligence claim to be successful, it has to be proven that the injury you suffered was preventable “at the time and in the circumstances” and that a competent member of the medical profession would not have committed the same mistakes which led to an illness/suffering, loss of some sort or an existing condition becoming worse.

Should you wish to pursue a medical negligence compensation claim in Ireland you must employ the services of a qualified solicitor the same would apply for any other type of claim that may not be resolved through the Injuries Board. Examples of these would be for injuries sustained due to using Thalidomide (where the drugs company still does not accept liability) or for DePuy hip replacement compensation claims, where no standard compensation amount has been set.

Other Options to Using the Irish Injuries Board

Due to there being so many barriers to completing a personal injury compensation claim using the Injuries Board process as outlined above, it should come as no surprise to discover that less than one third of cases eligible for the Injuries Board are resolved in this manner.

Solicitors will normally advise clients to initiate a claim through the Injuries Board. Even though a claim can begin in this way it does not prevent the solicitor from seeking a negotiated settled with the negligent party. Thus, if a settlement cannot be agreed upon, the process with the Injuries Board has moved closer to resolution and gaining ‘Authorisation’ to seek a court hearing to resolve the matter. More often than not the negligent party’s insurance company will have contacted you soon following the accident with an offer so that they may limit their financial liabilities – which can be far greater if you opt to use a solicitor or the Injuries Board.

Legal Fees for Personal Injury Claims and the Injuries Board

To avoid acting on impulse and agreeing to the first offer an insurance company makes, you should contact a qualified solicitor about filing an injury compensation claim, assuming you have first taken care of your own personal health and well-being. Using a solicitor does not mean you have a definite chance of securing a higher level of compensation award, but there are many instances where a solicitor will be able to direct you down a path that will increase the value of your claim to make any additional legal costs seem irrelevant.

According to Section 44 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act “the Respondent shall pay the fees and expenses, in whole or in part, that in the opinion of the Board have been reasonably and necessarily incurred by a plaintiff”. Due to this, any counsel provided to you by an insurance company under the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code 2012 Article 7.7 which says “any fees paid to a solicitor generally come out of whatever damages may be secured” may be false, as most legal fees involved in employing professional legal representation in Ireland should be redeemable as part of your compensation settlement.

Why is it Your Best Interests to Seek Professional Legal Guidance

In addition to providing advice which may be of greater financial value to you than any legal costs involved, there are also many other good factors to take into account as to why you would be “well advised” to seek professional legal guidance from a qualified solicitor when you have been injured in an accident for which you were not at fault. Potentially, the best reason is that, at a time when you are recuperating from an accident, you are not in the best physical or mental condition; and, although the Injuries Board Application Form A is relatively simple to navigate your way through, any slight error can seriously affect the final level of compensation awarded for a personal injury.

Additionally, while there is always the chance that consent to assess your application may be turned down, or that the Injuries Board’s assessment of personal injury compensation may be not be accepted, you should be making the reports and collecting the proof that would be needed to back up your personal injury claim if it cannot be resolved through the Injuries Board. If you attempt to collect evidence of a work injury or a street accident when an Authorisation has been granted nine months after your initial accident happened, there may be a lack of evidence of negligence to prove your case.

In order to ensure that everything is fully accounted for on the application Form A and during the Injuries Board of Ireland process, the use of a solicitor is advised in order to grant you some ease of mind and go some way to easing the pressure on you following your accident. A solicitor may also bring the compensation claim to an end more quickly by entering into negotiations with the insurance company of the negligent party, as well as representing you in court with full previous knowledge of your case should the Injuries Board assessment not be agreed to.

The experience of a solicitor in dealing with the Injuries Board process should also not be underestimated. They will have been through this many times before and are unlikely to omit any important considerations which may affect the final assessment. This is a desirable scenario for most potential clients as opposed to trying to be a “do-it-yourself amateur lawyer” who does not succeed in securing adequate compensation to pay for medical costs.

Final Summary – Injuries Board of Ireland

If you are still considering if you should use a solicitor for making a claim through the Injuries Board, here are a final few points to consider:

  1. The Injuries Boards gives you the option of making certain types of personal injury claims using a document-only process. You may reject the final assessment and begin the claims procedure again
  2. Using the Injuries Board does not lessen the chances of “third party capture” – where an insurance firm may contact you after your accident and when you are most vulnerable with an offer of compensation that is lower than what you are entitled to
  3. In the event that your application for assessment to the Injuries Board is contested on the grounds of liability or how much compensation is assessed for your personal injury claim, the Board has no alternative but to grant you an Authorisation to pursue your claim through the courts/judicial system
  4. Compensation claims for underage children, the mentally impaired, those who are claiming on grounds of medical negligence and plaintiffs with injuries for which there are no compensation benchmarks in place, all require the services of a solicitor to facilitate a proper resolution
  5. It being the case that there was more than one party at fault for your accident – or you have in some way contributed to your injuries due to your own lack of due care and attention – the Injuries Board Ireland will turn down your application for compensation assessment

Two separate claims for personal injury compensation in Ireland are never the same – even when the injuries inflicted are identical – and each claim should be assessed on its individual merits rather than against a book which lists a financial value for an injury with no regard for the consequences the injury has to the plaintiff