An important upcoming appeal to the Supreme Court will have serious ramifications for the means in which personal injuries claims are dealt with in the future.
Prior to 2014, all claims were dealt with in the same way ie the injured party issued proceedings against the party who was deemed to be at fault. The matter then went to a Court hearing which resulted in either a settlement between the parties or a judge making a decision and awarding damages as appropriate. The decision was based on a consideration of injuries sustained and they were based on the Book of Quantum, which, as the name suggests, was a book which set out how much compensation should be awarded for individual injuries. So, it provided a set sum for a broken leg, or for a sprained ankle. It was intended to give guidance to all parties when coming to a fair figure.
Things changed in 2014 when the Government passed legislation that set up the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). This was intended to reduce Court delays and introduce lower compensation claims which would hopefully reduce insurance premiums which had been rising over the previous years. The PIAB method was a significant change. Claims were now dealt with directly by PIAB, who would review the facts of the case and come up with a figure for compensation. If the injured party and defendant were both satisfied with the figure, then that would be the end of it. If not, the matter would have to go on to Court. In practice, this did reduce Court delays, but it also led to a situation where some people were not properly compensated for injuries sustained.
In Ms. Delaney’s case, she claimed that she was injured when she fractured a bone in her right ankle after tripping at a public footpath in Dungarvan in 2019. Her claim stated that her injuries were caused by the defendant’s negligence, in this case Waterford City and County Council. She needed medical treatment which included physiotherapy and a walker boot which she was obliged to wear for several weeks.
After PIAB assessed her claim, they came up with a settlement figure of €3,000. Ms. Delaney objected, on the grounds that her case should have been assessed using the old Book of Quantum procedure. She claimed that this would have given a compensation figure of between €18,000 – €34,000. As a result, she brought a case where she said that the assessment of the figure by way of PIAB was a breach of the rights she held to property, bodily integrity and equality under the Constitution. She claimed therefore that PIAB was acting outside its powers and that the PIAB guidelines should never have been adopted by the Judicial Council.
This claim was rejected by the High Court in 2022, on the grounds that Ms. Delaney’s right involved a right to have her damages assessed according to “clear and well-established principles” rather than a right to any specific sum of damages. They also found that the Judicial Council was the correct body to adopt the guidelines in question.
Ms. Delaney is now appealing to the Supreme Court and the matter is being reported today in the Irish Times because it has come to light that a number of the Supreme Court judges are dealing with a conflict of interest in terms of whether they will be able to hear the case at the trial date on February 28th. As a result, a number of judges are being joined to the Supreme Court for the hearing, so that they can replace those who cannot pass a decision. Regardless of how that aspect of things is resolved, the decision on appeal is going to have huge implications for the method of deciding damages figures in personal injuries cases.
If you have suffered a recent personal injury and think you may be entitled to bring a claim, feel free to fill out the form below and we will be in touch.