New Judicial Guidelines for personal injuries awards in the Republic of Ireland will apply from 24th April.

The Guidelines will dramatically reduce the value of General Damages with the upshot that only the most serious type of injury will command General Damages in excess of €60,000 and will be litigated in the High Court. The Guidelines replace the existing Book of Quantum.

The financial limits for the Irish Courts are as follows: up to €15,000 District Court, €15,000 to €60,000 Circuit Court and greater than €60,000 High Court. As can be seen from the list below, a very substantial number of more minor injuries with up to a two year recovery have now been moved to the jurisdiction of the District Court.

Please click hereto view the list.

Application

From 24th April it is mandatory for judges to make assessments having regard to the Guidelines, and if they wish to depart from them they are obliged to state the reasons in any judgment for doing so.

The categories of injuries in the Guidelines have been expanded in comparison to the Book of Quantum and now include brackets for psychiatric injuries previously not dealt with by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

In addition, specific guidance is provided in situations involving pre-existing conditions and injuries. In essence where a Claimant has a pre-existing condition that has been aggravated by another injury, the judge should have regard only to the extent and duration to which the condition had been made worse.

Guidance is also provided as to how instance of multiple injuries should be assessed. Specifically judges are required identify the most significant injury to a Claimant and apply the most appropriate bracket. Further to valuation of the most significant injury, the judge should then uplift the value to ensure that the claimant is properly compensated for the additional pain and suffering caused by the lesser injuries.

Old vs New

The Guidelines will apply to the assessment of damages in all personal injuries actions commenced on or after 24 April 2021.

The Book of Quantum will continue to apply to proceedings commenced prior to 24 April 2021 or where an assessment was made by PIAB prior to 24 April 2021 and was deemed not to be accepted.

This means there will for a period be a two-tier system in place where both the Book of Quantum and the Guidelines will be in use.

Summary

The new guidelines are meant to ensure consistency in awards which has frequently been missing in Irish Personal Injury claims. Notwithstanding that a number of judges were not in favour of the Guidelines and voted against them, it is anticipated that the Judiciary as a whole will apply the Guideline awards with immediate effect and that the principle of proportionality that has been frequently used when reducing awards will continue to be a key consideration.

At the present time it remains unclear whether the District Court has the capacity to deal with significant amounts of lower level personal injuries claims in an efficient manner. We anticipate seeing an increased volume of multiple injury claims as well as a greater focus on Special Damages in order to attempt to keep the claim in either the jurisdiction of the Circuit or High Court.

This reform brings Ireland much more in line with other Common Law jurisdictions. The Guidelines will have a dramatic effect on the cost of Irish Injury claims and should make Ireland more attractive to International Insurers.

The guidelines can be found online here.