In an effort to reduce premiums for consumers, the Judicial Council issued new Personal Injuries Guidelines (‘the Guidelines’) which govern pay-outs of general damages in personal injury cases. The Judicial Council is an independent body comprising all Judges in Ireland, which was instructed to review personal injury pay-outs. Justice Minister, Helen McEntee, expects that the Guidelines will be implemented next month. The Guidelines can be found here.
The Guidelines are intended to replace the Book of Quantum and therefore all new applications to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (‘PIAB’) will be assessed under the Guidelines. Judges must also have regard for the Guidelines when they are making an assessment of damages.
How do they work?
Differences to the Book of Quantum
The new guidelines focus significantly on the reduction of general damages for minor injuries, effectively reining in the larger awards offered in the Book of Quantum. The Guidelines are more detailed than the Book of Quantum in relation to the categories of injuries, which should assist in achieving more consistent awards. There is a modest increase of damages for injuries that reduce life-expectancy.
In the realm of soft tissue injuries, the common injury of ‘whiplash’ which was offered its own section in the Book of Quantum is now under the umbrella of neck injuries in the Guidelines. The more severe type of whiplash injury which previously offered up to €77,900 in general damages has been reduced to a maximum of €50,000. Similarly, minor cases of whiplash have been reduced from €15,700 to €3,000 for an individual who has fully recovered.
The Guidelines aim to ease the burden placed on the Court of Appeal’s resources by reducing the number of ‘unnecessary appeals’ as awards will be more consistent. However, until further clarity is provided on the Guidelines, it is possible that a two-tier system will emerge where some Judges rigidly stick to the Guidelines while other Judges do not.
Many cases which would traditionally have proceeded in the Circuit Court will now be in the District Court as it has jurisdiction up to €15,000. Equally many cases traditionally in the High Court will now proceed in the Circuit Court. It is unclear how this will affect the Courts and their resources when the new guidelines are fully bedded in. Whilst some may see it as a welcome change there is a healthy degree of scepticism attached to the Guidelines.