‘Surge’ in personal injury claims in run-up to reduction in awards

New guidelines in effect will see damages for minor and medium injuries cut by up to 50%

While there were 670 personal injury summonses lodged last week with the High Court, the same period last year saw just 100

While there were 670 personal injury summonses lodged last week with the High Court, the same period last year saw just 100

 

There was a “surge” in personal injury cases lodged last week in the run-up to the new reduced damages regime for injury compensation, according to a spokesman for the Courts Service.

While there were 670 personal injury summonses lodged last week with the High Court, the same period last year saw just 100, the spokesman said.

Figures are not available for the Circuit Court but legal sources said that a rush to lodge claims at that court was also evident.

New guidelines for personal injury awards adopted by the Judicial Council in March came into effect from Saturday.

The guidelines will see cuts of up to 50 per cent in the awards given for most types of minor and medium-range injuries.

The summonses lodged in court last week will be assessed under the old Book of Quantum, which generally recommended higher awards for whiplash and other types of injury.

Neil McDonnell, chief executive of Isme, which represents small and medium-sized businesses, said that change to the damages regime was always going to involve a deadline.

“I’m not going to knock practitioners for wanting to get the best for their clients,” he said.

Less money

However, he pointed out that the development shows that a new regime is now in place and less money had to be reserved for each new small and medium-sized injury claim lodged.

He called for insurance companies to reduce their premiums immediately.

On Friday a judge threw out four claims for a total of €240,000 in damages arising from an accident in which the occupants of a car that was “rear-ended” claimed to have sustained significant injuries.

Judge James McCourt, in a case not reported at the time, described as “remarkable” the difference in medical reports provided by Dundalk doctor John Murphy, for the four plaintiffs, and reports by Blackrock Clinic orthopaedic surgeon Garry Fenelon, who had examined the plaintiffs for the defendant, South County Self Drive, Rochestown Avenue, Dún Laoghaire, Co Dublin.

The rear-ending incident happened on December 1st, 2014, on a slip road off the M1 motorway at Carrickdale, Dundalk.

Judge McCourt dismissed €60,000 personal injury claims brought by Gerard Donegan (42) and his wife Kim Cooney (35) of Bayview, Jonesboro, Newry, Co Down, as well as Thomas Murphy (38) of the same Bayview address, and Raymond McParland, a 42-year-old blocklayer, of St Ronan’s Villas, Drominskin, Dundalk.

Solicitor

“It is rarely a good idea for a would-be plaintiff to visit their solicitor before seeking medical treatment,” Judge McCourt said.

“If all of them had turned up at Dr Murphy’s door before going to their solicitors then some store might be placed on Dr Murphy’s reports.”

Shane English, who appeared with Crowley Millar solicitors for the defendant, told the Circuit Civil Court that the plaintiffs’ solicitor, Sean Sheehan of Aaron Kelly Solicitors, Palace Street, Drogheda, Co Louth, had directed all of them to Dr Murphy, instead of their normal general practitioners.

Mr English had suggested to Mr Donegan, Mr Murphy and Mr McParland that they had deliberately lied, exaggerated their injuries and misled the court about previous claims and said he would, if necessary, call an Allianz investigator to give evidence to that effect.

The judge said it was remarkable how the four claimants could recall the basic key facts of a thud to the back of their car and yet be so vague in their recollection of their injuries.

Throwing out all four cases and awarding costs against the claimants, the judge said that no matter what way he looked at their claims, he had to consider the issue of their credibility.