Many personal injury payouts to sharply fall under new guidelines

Amounts awarded to be more in line with Northern Ireland, England and Wales

The guidelines were circulated earlier this week to judges before being considered at a meeting of the Judicial Council on Friday, chaired by the Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

The guidelines were circulated earlier this week to judges before being considered at a meeting of the Judicial Council on Friday, chaired by the Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke. Photograph: Nick Bradshaw

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Proposed new guidelines for assessing damages for personal injuries are aimed at substantially reducing awards for lesser injuries, while catastrophic injuries will incur a small increase, according to a report seen by The Irish Times.

The report of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council suggests a minor displaced fracture of the nose, which previously could attract an award of between €18,000 to €20,000, could get an amount as low as €500 if the guidelines are adopted.

The maximum general damages figure for catastrophic injuries here will be €550,000, up from €500,000, the report states.

Awards for lesser injuries have been calculated in light of that ceiling and will lie between the sums which would be awarded in Northern Ireland and in England and Wales.

Data obtained by the committee suggested Irish whiplash awards are 1.2 to 1.3 times higher than in Northern Ireland, and 1.9 to 2.3 times higher than their English and Welsh equivalents.

Judicial Council

The guidelines have not been published but were circulated earlier this week to judges before being considered at a meeting of the Judicial Council on Friday, when more than 90 per cent of the 166 judges participated via video conference.

The meeting, chaired by the Chief Justice Mr Justice Frank Clarke, considered a range of matters over two hours before adjourning until February 20th.

A spokesman for the council said the meeting had been adjourned for further consideration of the guidelines, which have been unanimously recommended for adoption by the board of the council and the drafting committee, but declined to make any further comment.

Drafted by a committee of seven judges chaired by High Court president Ms Justice Mary Irvine, the guidelines will apply if a majority of judges vote in favour of them.

They are intended to replace the Book of Quantum, which set general guidelines for the amounts to be awarded or assessed in personal injury claims.

Take effect

If adopted, they will take effect from late July once section 99 of the 2019 Act is commenced by the Minister for Justice and will apply to court settlements and cases before the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

A senior legal source said that, although a number of judges who participated in the meeting on Friday felt they needed more time to consider the guidelines, the view is they will ultimately be adopted.

Sources said that after the judges evenly divided on whether to adjourn to allow for further consideration or proceed to vote on the guidelines, the Chief Justice used his casting vote in favour of adjournment.

The guidelines will list specific injuries, ranging from minor to major, each of which has assigned to it a range or bracket within which an award of damages should ordinarily fall.

In certain cases, where the facts are exceptional, a judge may depart from the relevant bracket provided the facts and reasons for doing so are clearly set out.

The expectation is the guidelines will lead to more consistent and significantly reduced awards, especially for minor and soft tissue injuries, and reduced legal costs.

They are expected to lead to more, and earlier, settlements of cases and to discourage the bringing of certain cases before the High Court.