In response to growing concerns about the rising costs of insurance premiums in Ireland, the government unveiled its Action Plan for Insurance Reform late last year. As part of this initiative, new Personal Injuries Guidelines came into force on April 24 2021.
The Guidelines aim to reduce overall awards for claims by setting out parameters for the damages that can apply to different categories of personal injuries. These parameters will reduce the level of awards in most cases.
The directive will apply to both judges of the courts and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB). However, both will have a degree of discretion on the limits set out by the Guidelines.
We’ve taken a closer look at the implications of the Guidelines in this post.
What’s Going to Change?
The Guidelines will set out the level of damages that should apply to various categories of personal injuries. The guidelines intend that these limits will reduce some monetary awards in respect of personal injuries in Ireland from year to year.
One of the chief aims of the directive is to address the trend of overcompensation in cases involving multiple injuries that overlap. While it acknowledges that each injury sustained by a plaintiff will cause its own “additional pain and suffering,” it maintains that a different approach is required to ensure fair, consistent damages. Under the terms of the Guidelines, trial judges must assess awards based on the “most significant of the claimant’s injuries.” Judges should then weigh up any additional injuries and adjust damages accordingly to ensure a fair payout.
It should be noted that, while many injury categories will now be subject to lower awards, this is not the case across the board. The “most devastating and catastrophic” injuries will now have a maximum award of €550,000, rather than the previous limit of €500,000.
Timeline for Implementation
The Guidelines will officially take effect on Saturday, April 24 and currently apply to cases just started and or just lodged in PIAB.
Under the terms of the Judicial Council Act 2019, the Guidelines must be reviewed three years after their implementation and every three years thereafter.
What Is the Book of Quantum?
The Book of Quantum is the metric used by PIAB to assess levels of damages in personal injury cases currently; the Guidelines will eventually replace it. The book provides general guidance on the calculation of awards on the basis of amounts granted for similar injuries in the past.
While the Book of Quantum will no longer be used for new cases, its use will continue in any action that is already before the courts, or where PIAB has already made an assessment.
What Discretion Will Judges & PIAB Have in the Calculation of Damages Going Forward?
Under Section 99 of the Judicial Council Act 2019, judges retain the right to depart from the Guidelines when calculating damages, as they were when the Book of Quantum was the applicable standard. They must, however, “state the reasons for [any] such departure” in their judgments. This judicial discretion will likely be necessary in more complex personal injury matters.
According to its website, PIAB will also have the right to exercise discretion when it comes to the Guidelines. As is the case for judges, PIAB must provide an explanation if it fails to follow the relevant limit.
Seeking Representation After an Accident
If you’ve suffered an injury and you’d like to pursue a claim, we can help. Get in contact so that one of our personal injury specialists can assess your case. We are based in Waterford.