The Role of the Injuries Board in Ireland

The Injuries Board Ireland is an independent Government body which was established by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) Act of 2003 to decrease the length of time it was taking to resolve personal injury claims in Ireland and reduce the State´s costs of processing claims for personal injury compensation made against it.

In its two main objectives, the Injuries Board Ireland has been very successful. The average length of time it takes for an injury claim in Ireland to be resolved has been reduced from three years to approximately nine months, and the estimated savings to the taxpayer since the introduction of the Personal Injury Assessment Board exceeds half a billion Euros as at the end of 2011.

The role of the Injuries Board in Ireland in respects of plaintiffs who have been injured in an accident for which they were not at fault, is to assess how much compensation for a personal injury a plaintiff should receive from the negligent party´s insurers. It is a document-only process from which the Injuries Board issues an assessment based on the information they are provided with.

Making a Claim to the Injuries Board Ireland

Below, the procedure for making an application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland is explained along with the potential pitfalls you may encounter if you are unfamiliar with the injury claims process in Ireland, how a solicitor can help you overcome those potential pitfalls and what it may cost you in real terms to engage the services of a solicitor when making an application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland.

We hope that this information enables you to make an informed decision about whether it would be in your best interests to have legal representation when making a claim for compensation to the Injuries Board Ireland; but for advice which is specific to your personal situation, it is recommended that you speak with a solicitor who can offer you free independent and impartial information about injury compensation in Ireland.

The Injuries Board Process for Compensation Claims in Ireland

The basic Injuries Board process for making compensation claims in Ireland is very straightforward. The person who has been injured in the accident completes an application Form A either online or on a paper form which can be obtained through the post from the Injuries Board in Ireland. When the form is completed, it is submitted to the Injuries Board with a copy of application Form B (a medical assessment of your injury completed by your doctor) and receipts for any expenses that you may wish to recover.

Once the Injuries Board has received your application forms and the 45 Euro fee, they will notify the person responsible for causing the accident in which you were injured (called the “Respondent” by the Injuries Board, but who would be the “Defendant” if your claim went to court) and ask for their consent to proceed with an assessment of your injury claim. The Respondent has 90 days to agree to the assessment being carried out and should they fail to respond after that time will be considered to have provided their consent by default. If the Respondent withholds their consent for an assessment, you will be issued with an “Authorisation” to pursue your injury claim in court; with the Injuries Board having no further input into the resolution of your compensation claim.

Provided that the Respondent consents to an assessment, you may be asked to undergo a further medical examination within the next four weeks – the cost of which is borne by the Injuries Board Ireland. A medical examination might be necessary to establish how quickly (or not) you are recovering from your injuries – especially as up to four months may have elapsed since the submission of your application – and the results of your examination may significantly influence how much compensation the Injuries Board assesses your injury claim to be worth.

On average, it then takes seven to nine months for the Injuries Board to complete their assessment of your injury compensation claim, after which time both you and the Respondent are sent a “Notice of Assessment”; which is followed – provided both parties accept the Assessment within 28 days – by an Order to Pay, and you should receive your Injuries Board-assessed compensation shortly after. If either party fails to accept the Injuries Board Assessment within 28 days, you will be issued with an “Authorisation” to pursue your injury claim in court.

How the Injuries Board Ireland Assesses Claims for Compensation

The Injuries Board Ireland assesses claims for compensation against a publication known as the “Book of Quantum”. This publication lists specific types of injury and provides each with a financial value according to the severity of the injury and its permanence. The value of the injury is then adjusted to account for your age, your general state of health prior to your injury and, in certain categories of injury, your sex.

This figure is known as “General Damages” and, for the majority of personal injury claims in Ireland is the main element of an Injuries Board assessment. However, as you will see from the section below, there are several other elements which in some cases can amount to more than the assessment of general damages for the loss, injury or deterioration of an existing condition you sustained due to somebody else´s negligence.

What Should be Included in an Injuries Board Assessment

As well as general damages for the physical suffering you experienced at the time of your injury and throughout your recovery, an Injuries Board assessment should include compensation for any quantifiable psychological trauma which has been identified and recorded in your doctor´s medical assessment and the recovery of any expenses you have incurred – or income you have lost – due to the negligence of the person or entity which caused the accident in which you were injured.

You are also entitled to claim compensation for your loss of amenity – or, in other words, the negative effect an injury has had on your quality of life and the lack of ability to complete day-to-day tasks or enjoy an active leisure and social life. Unfortunately, there is very little opportunity to explain the personal consequences of an injury on either the online application or the hard copy of the application Form A and, if the Injuries Board Ireland is not made aware of the full implications of your injury, they are unable to accurately assess how much compensation for a personal injury you are entitled to receive.

It may appear to the inexperienced plaintiff that not only should you be aware of every element of personal injury compensation in Ireland, you should also have the knowledge of how to apply for it in order to receive a full and fair assessment of your claim.

The Injuries Board and Court Action in Ireland

If the Injuries Board Ireland issues you with an Authorisation because the negligent party fails to acknowledge their liability for your injuries or because one or other party disagrees with the Injuries Board´s assessment, it does not necessarily mean that you will have to resolve your claim in court. The Authorisation simply provides you with authority you need to pursue court action if your claim for personal injury compensation cannot be resolved through the Injuries Board process or by negotiation with the negligent party´s insurers while the Injuries Board process is ongoing.

Indeed, many solicitors will advise their clients to apply for an assessment to the Injuries Board even when the likelihood exists that a negotiated settlement can be agreed long before the Injuries Board process is complete. In this way, should negotiations with the negligent party´s insurers fail to satisfactorily resolve your claim, you will not have to wait for the Injuries Board Ireland to go through the motions before being able to initiate court action. There are however some scenarios in which an appearance in court will be unavoidable.

Claims through the Injuries Board for Children

Claims through the Injuries Board for children can only be made by a parent or guardian acting on the child´s behalf as a “next friend”. Authorisation to represent a child can be acquired from your local District Court without an appearance in front of a judge, but a court appearance will be necessary when an assessment by the Injuries Board is accepted, as all injury compensation settlements for children have to be approved by a court before payment of the compensation settlement can be made.

The Injuries Board process for making compensation claims for children in Ireland is no different from the procedures listed above – with the exception that online applications for assessment are not accepted for children by the Injuries Board and it will be necessary to submit a paper copy of application Form A along with all the supporting documents through the post. The only other exception that might apply to claims through the Injuries Board for children is if your child has been injured due to medical negligence.

Claims through the Injuries Board for Medical Negligence

Irrespective of whether the plaintiff is a child or an adult, the Injuries Board of Ireland will decline applications for assessment for any injury which is related to medical negligence. This is because for a medical negligence compensation claim in Ireland to be successful, it has to be shown that the injury you sustained was avoidable “at the time and in the circumstances” and that a competent medical practitioner would not have made the same errors which led to a loss, an injury or the deterioration of an existing condition.

You will always need to engage the services of a solicitor if you wish to pursue a medical negligence claim in Ireland or any other type of claim which the Injuries Board is unable to assess – such as claims for injuries caused by Thalidomide (where the drugs company still denies liability) or for injuries attributable to the recalled DePuy hip replacement systems, where no compensation benchmark has yet been established.

Alternatives to the Using the Injuries Board in Ireland

With there being so many exclusions from the Injuries Board process, the possible difficulties attached to being able to adequately represent your injuries in an document-only procedure, the potential for assessments to be declined due to a lack of consent or refused because one party feels the assessment is too high or too low, it is not surprising that less than a third of all applications for assessment submitted to the Injuries Board Ireland are resolved using the Injuries Board process featured above.

As it was previously mentioned, solicitors will often advise their clients to make an application for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland even when there is a strong likelihood of a claim being resolved through negotiation; and you do not have to wait until an Authorisation is received from the Injuries Board before the negotiation procedure can start. Indeed, it is often the case that the negligent party´s insurers will contact you directly soon after an accident caused by their client in order to free themselves of future financial liabilities by making an unsolicited offer of injury compensation when you are at your most vulnerable.

The Injuries Board and Legal Fees

Therefore, as soon as you have received preliminary professional medical attention for your injuries, you should always seek legal advice from a solicitor about making injury compensation claims in Ireland – through the Injuries Board or via any other means. Inasmuch as employing a solicitor does not guarantee a plaintiff´s likelihood of getting a higher reward, there are many scenarios in which the advice you receive from a solicitor will enhance the value of your compensation claim above any legal fee costs you may incur.

However, under Section 44 of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act it is stated that “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 claimant”. Consequently, any advice provided to you by an insurance company under the Central Bank Consumer Protection Code 2012 Article 7.7 which states “any fees paid to a solicitor generally come out of whatever damages may be secured” may be incorrect, as most legal fees incurred in engaging professional legal representation in Ireland should be recoverable as part of your compensation settlement.

Why you may be Well Advised to Seek Professional Legal Advice

In addition to being eligible for effectively “free” legal representation in Ireland, there are also many good reasons why you would be well advised to seek professional legal advice from a solicitor when you have been injured in an accident for which you were not to blame. Possibly the most valid reason is that at a time when you are recovering from an accident, you are not at your strongest physically or mentally, and although the Injuries Board Application Form A is straightforward to complete, any omissions or errors can significantly affect how much compensation for a personal injury is assessed.

Furthermore, while there is always the risk that consent to assess your application may be declined, or that the Injuries Board´s assessment of compensation may be rejected, you should be making the reports and collecting the evidence that would be required to support your personal injury claim if the claim cannot be resolved through the Injuries Board process. If you attempt to collect evidence of a trip in street or a fall at work when an Authorisation has been issued nine months after your accident occurred, there may be insufficient evidence of negligence remaining for you to prove your case.

A solicitor will be able to assist you with all these procedures and complete the application Form A on your behalf so that the consequences of an injury and your loss of amenity are fully accounted for and included in the Injuries Board´s assessment. Your solicitor can also enter into negotiations with the negligent party´s insurers to obtain a quicker resolution of your injury claim and represent you in court action with full previous knowledge of your case if a negotiated settlement is not possible.

Finally, a solicitor has the experience of handling personal injury claims and submitting applications for assessment to the Injuries Board Ireland. He or she will have done it many times before to the satisfaction of their clients and obtained the maximum possible injury compensation settlement on their behalf. For many potential plaintiffs, this is a far better scenario than attempting to be a “do-it-yourself amateur lawyer” who subsequently fails to obtain sufficient compensation to pay for medical costs or support their family.

Injuries Board of Ireland Summary

Some final points for you to consider about whether using the services of a solicitor will benefit your claim for personal injury compensation when making an application for assessment to the Injuries Board of Ireland

The Injuries Board of Ireland provides a document-only administrative process for certain types of personal injury claims in Ireland with your only option, should you disagree with their assessment, to reject it and start the claims process again.

The presence of the Injuries Board does not prevent the risk of “third party capture” – where an insurance company may approach you when you are most vulnerable with an inappropriate offer of compensation.

Should your application for assessment to the Injuries Board of Ireland be contested on the grounds of liability or how much compensation is assessed for your claim, the Injuries Board has no option but to issue you with an Authorisation to pursue your claim through the courts.

Claims for children, the mentally impaired, those who have been the victim of medical negligence and claimants with injuries for which there are no established compensation benchmarks will all require the services of a solicitor to enable a satisfactory resolution.

Should there be more than one party responsible for your accident – or you have contributed to your injuries due to your own lack of care – the Injuries Board Ireland will decline your application for assessment of compensation.

No two claims for personal injury compensation in Ireland are the same – even when the injuries sustained are identical – and each claim should be assessed on its personal merits rather than against a book which lists a financial value for an injury with no regard to the consequences the injury has to an individual.

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