What is the O Byrne Letter precedent? I was involved in a multi-car accident and my friend mentioned I might need to send one.

Eoin P. Campbell, LL.B., Solicitor

Editor in Chief

Eoin P. Campbell

The O Byrne Letter precedent refers to a letter that would be sent to multiple respondents involved in a personal injury compensation claim. This task would normally be performed by a solicitor once they have been instructed by their client. Most personal injury claims for injuries in which the plaintiff has suffered injuries due to negligence is directed to one party and in these cases only one “Letter of Claim” is required to satisfy the legal requirements. The O’Byrne Letter replaces the standard “Letter of Claim” when multiple respondents are involved.

Where the main object of a “Letter of Claim” is to pre-warn the defendant that they will be hearing from the Injuries Board with a “Formal Notice”, i.e. a notice that informs the defendant that the Injuries Board has received an application for a assessment of a personal injury claim, the O’Byrne letter precedent addresses the issue of liability as between the respondents. It is for each individual defendant – or their legal representatives – to argue that another defendant (or respondents) was responsible or perhaps “more” responsible.

The O’Byrne letter precedent would include standard details such as the name and address of the plaintiff and brief details of the subject accident, but it would also include a statement that the accident happened as a result of the negligence of the recipient and that of one, other or several potential respondents but that the plaintiff is not in a position to say who is responsible.

Also included in the O’Byrne letter precedent is a request that the recipient admits liability within a certain specified period and a proposal for the plaintiff’s compensation. A warning would follow, that in the absence of an admission of liability, an application will be made to the Injuries Board. If court proceedings against all of the respondents become necessary, the O’Byrne letter itself will be used in evidence.

In a situation where there are several wrongdoers and it is unclear who was at “most” to blame, the plaintiff should not attempt to prove or even debate over it. Your solicitor will make it clear from the get-go that this is an issue for the various respondents to agree on among themselves.