Personal Injury Litigation - 5 Points To Note Before Making A Claim
There are a number of things you should bear in mind before bringing a personal injuries claim. They are:
- Time limits
The first thing that those thinking of taking a personal injuries case should bear in mind is that such claims are subject to time limits. If an injured party does not bring a claim within these time limits, they can become ‘statute barred’ or prohibited from bringing a claim for compensation in court.
Generally speaking, a personal injury claim must be made within 2 years from the date of knowledge of their injury. However, like most things in law, it is not as straight forward as that.
The time limit applicable to each and every case depends entirely on the ‘date of knowledge’. The date of knowledge refers to the date on which the injured person gained knowledge of all of the following:
- a) They sustained an injured.
- b) The injury they sustained was significant.
- c) The injury was caused by negligence of another party.
- d) The identity of the party at fault is known.
Although this date is usually be the date of the accident, this is not always the case. For example, an injury may not begin to manifest for some time after an accident. In this case, the ‘date of knowledge’ is the date the injured person found out they were injured.
This rule also protects those who, despite knowing that they are injured, are not aware that their injuries were caused by someone else’s negligence. Even if they become aware of this many years later, they are not statute barred from bringing a personal injuries claim because the ‘date of knowledge’ is the date they found out their injury was caused by someone else’s negligence.
There are 2 exceptions to the general time limits – one applies to those who are minors (under the age of 18) while the other applies to those who are of unsound mind. In the case of minors, the clock does not start ticking until they reach the age of 18. Children can therefore make a personal injury claim at any time up to their 20th birthday for accidents that occurred before they were 18. Until the child reaches the age of 18, a competent adult can take a claim on their behalf if they so wish.
In the case of those who are of unsound mind, such as a mental disability, the clock does not start ticking until such time as they are no longer of unsound mind.
The second point to bear in mind is the cost of taking a personal injuries claim. It is important to remember that the person taking the personal injuries claim will always be responsible for discharging their own legal fees – and, if their claim is unsuccessful, may even be responsible for the legal fees of the other side.
When it comes to personal injuries claims, the majority of solicitors work on a ‘no win, no fee’ basis. This means that the solicitor will not charge a professional fee if the case is unsuccessful. The person taking the personal injuries case may still be responsible for any expenses or outlay the solicitor incurred throughout the case. In this regard, some solicitors may require money upfront so that they may pay for any outlays and expenses that arise during the case. An example of this might be a medical report, which can cost between €300-€650.
Notwithstanding this, the Irish legal system works on the general principle that ‘costs follow the event’. This means that the winning side will, in most instances, have their costs, expenses and outlays paid for by the losing side. This means that if the person taking the personal injuries case wins, most of their legal fees and outlays may be paid for by the other side.
- Record important details
A solicitor needs as many details as possible. Since memory tends to fade as time goes on, it is important to record and keep as many details as possible and as soon as possible after an injury has occurred. This may include:
- a) Details of the accident that caused your injury.
- b) Details of where the injury occurred (addresses, company details etc.)
- c) Details of the injury.
- d) Details of any previous injuries/claims.
- e) Details of any expenses you have incurred (e.g. medical bills).
- f) Details of any witnesses or CCTV or dashcam footage, if available.
- g) Registration numbers of any vehicles involved
- h) Details of the person at fault.
- i) Details of measurements and photographs are particularly important.
- The length of the process
Those contemplating taking a personal injuries claim should be prepared for it to go for many years. Although it is impossible to gauge how long an individual personal injuries claim will take from start to finish, we can outline approximate time-scales for the following stages:
- a) Medical Report – most personal injuries claims start with at least one medical report. Depending on the type of medical report and expertise involved, this step could take anywhere from a number of days to a number of months.
- b) PIAB – most personal injuries claims start with an application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. On average, claims made to the PIAB are assessed within 7 months from the date that the respondent consents to have the claim assessed by the PIAB.
- c) Court Proceedings – If the matter does not settle or is not assessed by the PIAB, the next stage is to issue court proceedings. The time it takes varies but one should expect it to take at 18 months. Some personal injury claims can take up to 48 months.
- How much is a claim worth
Again, like the length of the process, it is difficult to assess how much an induvial claim is worth. Amounts can vary greatly depending on the type of injury, the severity of the injury, the recovery period and any financial loss incurred as a result.
Having said that, one can look to the Book of Quantum to estimate the value of any claim. The Book of Quantum, created by the Injuries Board, provides us with a general guideline on how much may be awarded in a claim. The book assesses certain injuries in terms of severity and how long it may take to recover. Important to note is that this book does not determine the exact value of a case, actual circumstances and expenses incurred may lead one to a different outcome.
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