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Reduction in levels of Personal Injuries Awards

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By Niamh McKeever, Laurence Mulligan & Claire Morrissey


Published 15 July 2021


The Judicial Council Personal Injuries Guidelines were introduced in Ireland on 24 April 2021. These guidelines will apply to all personal injury cases to include medical negligence cases. The aim of these Guidelines is to reduce the level of damages in personal injury actions. Their main impact is likely to be seen more in the area of lower value claims. However, they will also serve to develop a level of consistency in the assessment of awards at all levels.

In determining quantum in all personal injury actions, Judges must have regard to these Guidelines which are now mandatory and if Judges depart from those Guidelines they must explain their rationale for doing so. The Court will hear submissions from the parties as to what category of the Guidelines are appropriate in each case. This is not something that has routinely happened to date. This will bring greater transparency to the assessment of damages and should ultimately assist in earlier resolution of claims.

These Guidelines also introduce new categories not previously provided for in the Book of Quantum, some of which would cover injuries arising in medical negligence cases, for example, psychiatric damages to include PTSD, chronic pain, dermatitis and skin conditions. The Guidelines reinforce the principle that recovery will only be permitted for a recognised psychiatric injury.

In cases involving multiple injuries, which would regularly be the case in medical negligence cases, the Court will identify the most significant injury and what category that falls into and then apply an uplift in relation to the lesser injuries to ensure fair compensation without over compensation. In relation to pre-existing conditions the Guidelines stipulate that regard will only be had to the extent to which the condition has been made worse and the duration of the increased symptoms.

While most of the awards in the less serious type of claims will be reduced, the cap on general damages for catastrophic injuries has increased from €500,000 to €550,000.

The introduction of these new Guidelines are a welcome development for Defendants and their Insurers. Not only will they reduce the level of damages, they will, over time, mean a more predictable and consistent approach will be applied by the Courts which, in turn, should facilitate the earlier resolution of claims.