Judicial Council Personal Injury Guidelines
The Judicial Council is an independent body whose membership consists of all the judges in Ireland. It was set up on 17 December 2019 with a mission to embody excellence and high standards of conduct by an independent judiciary whilst also achieving public confidence in the administration of justice.
The Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee was one of the first Committees established evidencing the importance of this particular task and the priority given to it.
After various meetings of this Committee, on Saturday, 6 March 2021, a majority of Irish judges voted in favour of the proposed new Judicial Council Guidelines (“the Guidelines”) aimed at reducing damages awarded in personal injury cases in Ireland. This has been a heated topic for a number of years with awards in personal injury cases in Ireland seen as being too pro-plaintiff particularly when compared to awards for similar injuries in the UK and Northern Ireland.
Why are Irish personal injury awards in the news?
- Personal injury awards and settlements in Ireland are high relative to other countries, including other EU Member States and the UK.
- The insurance industry and business associations have been lobbying for reductions for many years.
- The Government in its Programme for Government committed to act to reduce the cost of insurance premiums to business, including by acting to reduce compensations, settlements and awards for personal injuries.
- The Government also plans to act to reduce the cost of legal services in general, including by revising court scale fees and by exploring the creation of a new profession of Conveyancer for property transactions.
- The judiciary has now approved the Guidelines that will replace the Book of Quantum which has been used to date as a guide on damages for personal injuries.
What will change?
- The new Guidelines will be implemented in the coming weeks. They will replace the Book of Quantum. The new Guidelines can be found here.
- The main differences between the Guidelines and the Book of Quantum will be for minor soft tissue injuries, like whiplash, nasal fracture, shoulder injury, minor head injuries etc. which will be capped at €12,000 bringing these firmly within the remit of the District Court, where legal costs are strictly limited.
- In the short term, however, there will be an overlap between the Book of Quantum and the new Guidelines as pre-existing cases will continue to be assessed under the old system. This may lead to an increase in cases being issued in the short term so that minor injuries would be assessed using the Book of Quantum.
- The judges will continue to have complete independence and discretion in making awards in personal injury cases, but if a judge departs from the relevant guidelines, he or she must give reasons for doing so.
- The Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) will also be bound by the new Guidelines.
- More PIAB assessments are likely to be accepted by claimants so that fewer claims will go through the court process.
- Settlements and awards for moderate, serious and severe injuries won’t change much and, in some cases, may be greater.
- It remains to be seen if and when insurers will reduce premiums, for employers’ and public liability insurance premiums in particular.
What more can businesses do to minimise and reduce the cost of employers and public liability insurance premiums?
- Have a health and safety (H&S) audit of the business premises carried out frequently; once every two years;
- Rigorously implement any audit recommendations;
- Ensure all employees are fully trained on up-to-date H&S issues and foster a strong H&S culture in the business;
- Communicate the H&S policy to employees and patrons alike, with the use of onsite notices and signage;
- Install high quality CCTV systems on the premises, with due regard to GDPR / employee rights considerations;
- Rigorously maintain an incident register or log where all events and circumstances that could give rise to a claim are recorded in detail and notified to insurers when they occur; and
- Nominate a H&S Officer on each team with responsibility for implementation of policies.
- Lorraine Compton: firstname.lastname@example.org
- William Aylmer: email@example.com
- Shane Dunlop: firstname.lastname@example.org
Please note that in contentious business an Irish solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.
© Compton Solicitors 2021