By Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor
How Much is my Claim Worth?
How much a claim is worth depends entirely on the individual factors in each case. It is important to remember that no two claims for personal injury compensation in Ireland are identical – irrespective of how similar the injuries sustained are – and each case should have its claim value assessed on its own individual merits.
Calculating the Value of a Personal Injury Claim
A personal injury compensation settlement in Ireland is comprised of four main elements. Not all will apply in every case, and there may be some personal injury claims which have additional factors to consider. Furthermore, it may be some time before the full consequence of each element is known – therefore delaying how long it may take to established how much a claim is worth.
The four primary elements are:-
General Damages for Pain and Suffering
How much compensation for the physical injury you sustain is calculated with reference to the Book of Quantum – a publication which provides a range of financial values for injuries depending on the severity of the injury, the length of time it may take for you to recover from your injury and whether or not it will remain a permanent condition.
The claim value assessed by the Book of Quantum is then adjusted to account for your age, your physical condition prior to the accident in which you were injured and – in certain cases – your sex. If, for example, an older man and a younger woman were both to sustain similar eye injuries which resulted in a visible scar, the younger woman would receive a higher settlement of compensation to reflect the longer length of time she would have to live with the scar, plus a premium for her gender as the law accepts that women place greater importance on their appearances than men.
General Damages for Psychological Trauma
Trauma experts have acknowledged that every accident results in some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and you may be able to include the element of emotional trauma you experience in a personal injury claim for compensation provided that the injury you have suffered can be quantified. In some circumstances, it is not necessary for you to have sustained a physical injury in order to qualify for compensation for a psychological injury.
General damages for psychological trauma can also be awarded if you suffer from anxiety or depression during your recovery or if you suffer a lack of confidence in the future due to the nature of your accident – such as if you experience a fall from height and subsequently develop acrophobia. In order to establish that you are eligible for general damages for a psychological trauma, it may be necessary to undergo a psychiatric evaluation and, as this category of injury is typically the longest to manifest, it may be some time until your full entitlement to compensation for a psychological trauma is determined.
General Damages for Loss of Amenity
When your claim value is assessed, it is not only the injuries you have sustained which are taken into account, but also the consequences of your injuries. Therefore, if you are unable to complete everyday tasks due to your immobility or incapacity, you are eligible to include your “loss of amenity” in calculations to establish how much your claim is worth.
Your loss of amenity can extend to the inability to enjoy social or leisure pursuits that would have formed part of your regular routine prior to your accident and injury, and a solicitor would advise you to maintain a diary to record the times that your injury prevents you from participating in such events. There is no “Book of Quantum” or guide to how much compensation for loss of amenity you may be entitled to include in your personal injury claim, and the element of general damages for your loss of amenity will be calculated by considering previous awards in similar situations in relation to your own individual lifestyle.
Special Damages for Financial Expenses
How much a claim is worth can be significantly influenced by the financial expenses that have been incurred – or may be incurred in the future. The element of special damages enables you to recover any costs or loss of income which are directly attributable to the negligence of the person(s) who caused your injury so that you are in no worse a financial situation than you would have been if your accident had never occurred.
Special damages can account for everything from the cost of medicines and using alternative forms of transport if you are unable to drive, to restructuring your home if your accident has left you confined to wheelchair or replacing a lifetime of potential earnings if a child has suffered a catastrophic injury which will prevent them from every being able to work. Provided that receipts, invoices and other credible financial documents can be produced to justify an expense – past, present or future – you will be eligible to include that cost in your special damages for financial expenses.
Other Factors Which Affect Compensation Settlements in Ireland
As mentioned above, how much a claim is worth depends entirely on the individual factors in each case and, if you have contributed to the cause of your accident or the extent of your injuries, your compensation settlement could be reduced to reflect your own lack of care. Although many potential claimants will understand that the factor of contributory negligence will apply to any time an injury is sustained in a car accident when not wearing a seat belt, few will be aware that the failure to seek immediate professional medical attention can also influence how much a claim is worth.
Personal contributory negligence can also affect the value of a personal injury claim if you fail to communicate to your doctor the symptoms you are experiencing – especially in claims for the misdiagnosis of an illness – or if you inadvertently accept an inadequate offer of compensation from the negligent party´s insurance company without first undergoing an assessment of your claim with an experienced personal injury solicitor. Should a compensation settlement from an insurance company subsequently be insufficient to pay for your medical costs or support your family, you cannot go back to the insurance company and ask for more.
Consequently, it is ALWAYS in your best interests to have a claim value assessed by a legal professional at the earliest possible opportunity, even if no final figure can be calculated to inform you how much your claim is worth at the time.
- The value of a claim for personal injury compensation is determined by a number of variable factors.
- Special damages for out of pocket expenses can be included when having a claim value assessed.
- Any negligent actions on your part will also affect the assessment of your claim value.
- Negligent actions include accepting an inappropriate offer of settlement without first seeking a professional legal opinion.
- No two claims for injury compensation are identical and you should always have the claim value assessed by a solicitor.
it is important to note that each case is unique. If you feel that you have a potential personal injury claim, you are advised to discuss all of the points raised in the preceding article with a solicitor at the earliest opportunity.
Copyright © 2009-2015 Eoin Campbell
About the Author
Eoin P. Campbell is an honours law graduate (LL.B) and qualified solicitor whose primary professional experience is in the area of litigation and in particular personal injury claims. Eoin P. Campbell is currently lecturing in law at two universities in Lyon, France.