Introduction to High Court Compensation Awards
There are many steps to take before you can be compensated with high court compensation awards, particularly because the high court deals exclusively with the most complex cases and eligibility is based on the circumstances surrounding the individual case.
In Ireland, generally all compensation claims – excluding medical negligence claims – begin with the Injuries Board Ireland who assesses how much compensation should go to the negligent party. Although some claims end at that stage with all parties agreeing on the amount suggested, claims are more likely to be settled through negotiations with the legal representatives of all parties involved.
Claims go to the high court if no settlement can be satisfactorily reached, if there is any dispute over liability and – as mentioned before – in the most complex cases.
Which Cases are Eligible?
High court compensation awards have been known to be given in cases regarding industrial disease. A common example is when an employee has contracted an asbestos related disease, such as asbestosis or mesothelioma which can take years to develop and for the symptoms to manifest. Problems arise when in the intervening time the employer has ceased trading. Recently, there have been high profile compensation claims made against insurance companies that have been ordered by court to pay a settlement but have later neglected to provide the money. This withholding of money stems from the insurance company maintaining that the claim was generated by the onset of illness and not from asbestos exposure. In such cases, pursuing the matter in the high courts was the only option.
Cases involving medical negligence are frequently brought to the high court, especially when liability for death or serious injury is in question. It can often be difficult to prove negligence for claims involving operations where there is a fundamental risk involved and with difficult births when an injury or death were perhaps inevitable according to the attending obstetrician. It is far from a straightforward case when medical negligence has been denied, and the matter may need to be prioritised and brought before a judge.
There are times of clear cut cases of vehicular accidents involving a party who has been considered entirely liable at a lower court are taken to be heard at the high court in order to agree on compensation. The driver may have been fined and given penalty points, but compensation may not be satisfactorily decided leading to the accident victim taking the claim to the highest level to receive fair and accurate compensation. In some cases involving uninsured drivers, compensation claims sought in the high court may be the only option to make sure that money is provided to cover medical bills and additional expenses.
Risks, Concerns and Interim Payments
High court compensation awards are not always guaranteed; there is a risk attributed with taking the matter before a judge. It should be noted that fighting complicated industrial disease claims and cases of medical negligence will almost always require specialist legal advice. It is, therefore, essential that the plaintiff receives the best possible legal counsel to increase the opportunity of a successful claim.
It is worth noting that, sometimes a solicitor will recommend that a case is scheduled to be taken to a judge, and it is accelerated to a high court injury compensation claim. While your solicitor may be content to continue with the case before a judge, being prepared to take the matter further can sometimes be all that is required to coerce a settlement from the negligent party. In certain cases, once a high court date is scheduled, a sufficient settlement is agreed on in last minute negotiations.
In many cases, the threat of a long drawn out fight in court and the costs attributed to one would make it worthwhile for a third party to settle the claim out of court. It is the costs of a high court compensation claim that is often the principal worry in most cases, as failure at this point would certainly have financial consequences for the plaintiff.
The length of time it could take to receive a settlement is also a concern, particularly in cases of serious injury where there is a rapidly increasing medical bill.
In cases where negligence has been officially acknowledged by a third party, and the only remaining issue is agreeing on the final settlement amount to be paid, it may be possible to receive an interim payment until the final figure has been agreed. Even in cases where negligence has been denied, interim payments may be applicable when the case is especially strong.
Such payments are arranged to cover continuing medical expenses, transport or for fitting out a home with the necessary equipment to care for an individual with serious illness. Interim payments are considered to be necessary in cases where an employer does not have a sick pay scheme, and an employee is forced to take time off work without payment, or where recovery and rehabilitation has exceed the highest claim period.
High Court Compensation Awards
It is not wholly sufficient to have been in an accident and sustained injuries in order to receive high court compensation awards from the courts. It has to be proven that the party/parties you sued were responsible, at least partially, for the accident and the injuries you subsequently suffered.
It may be the case that several people share blame for an accident, including the injured party. In this scenario – “contributory negligence” – the court may apportion or divide the blame between the different parties involved.
Your compensation claim will be sectioned into two parts:
- General Damages – for the pain, suffering and inconvenience you have suffered, and may continue to suffer, as a result of the accident. The court will decide on how much general damages by measuring the severity of your injuries. Consideration will be given to all of the medical evidence provided, and by taking into account the pain you have already experienced and your future prognosis.
- Special Damages – for the financial expenses you have incurred, and may incur in the future. These damages could include the cost of repairing your car, any medical costs, loss of income and all related expenses including transport, home-help and so on. You may be required to provide receipts and bills to prove you have in fact incurred all of these costs and so it is important to keep record of every bill and receipt.
If you are unhappy with the amount offered as settlement, then the matter will be sent to a court for judgement only on how much you are eligible for in damages.
In this scenario, the court would not take responsibility for the accident into account. The judge merely places a financial value on your case based on an examination of the nature and severity of your injuries and your future prognosis. This amount would be decided by taking medical reports into account and hearing evidence from medical practitioners relating to your injuries, if necessary. You may also be called as a witness to describe your injuries.
In general, awards are paid by cheque by the defendant to your solicitor within six to eight weeks.