Introduction of the New Guidelines
On the 24th of April 2021, The Judicial Council of Ireland introduced new personal injury guidelines that dramatically reduced the value of General Damages for litigation involving minor to moderate injuries. The key outcome of this significant change in assessing personal injury cases is that only the most serious type of injury will command General Damages in excess of €60,000, and these types of cases will be litigated in the High Court. The new guidelines are meant to “promote a better understanding of the principles governing the assessment and award of damages for personal injuries” given how the difficult task of assessing the severity of cases has “historically led to judges making widely varying awards of damages in respect of relatively comparable injuries”. (See the introduction to the guidelines here).
What does this mean for those seeking compensation for a personal injury?
In short, it means the award for General Damages (the compensation a claimant receives for the injury itself in terms of the pain, suffering, and loss of ability to perform activities) is likely to be much lower for those who have suffered a relatively minor injury with up to a two year recovery period. A substantial number of these types of cases have also been moved from the High Court to the District Court. The new guidelines replace the compensation awards cited in The Book of Quantum, the document previously used by courts in Ireland to determine the compensation which someone may be awarded in a personal injury claims lawsuit.
What are the key differences in compensation value when comparing the Book of Quantum to the new Personal Injuries Guidelines?
The main difference between the Book of Quantum and the new Personal Injuries Guidelines is that minor injuries now have lower value in terms of maximum compensation payouts. Here are a few key examples.
Minor neck whiplash/soft tissue injuries
Under Book of Quantum guidance, these sorts of injuries would have paid up to €19,400, where a full recovery was expected. Under the new personal injury guidelines, the award will be in the region of €500–€12,000, depending on the length of time it takes for recovery. Substantial recovery time will result in a higher award.
Minor back injuries
Under Book of Quantum guidance, those who have substantially recovered from soft tissue, sprain-type back injuries incurred in motor vehicle accidents or via slips, trips, or falls, may have been awarded up to €14,800. The award increased from €21,400 – €34,000 for moderate soft tissue injuries where recovery had been protracted. However, under the new personal injury guidelines, minor back injuries now payout €500–€20,000 depending on the length of the recovery period. If recovery occurs within 6 months, the maximum payout is €3,000.
Minor leg injuries
A simple leg fracture of the femur with no other damage may have previously paid out between €27,700–€59,100. Under the new guidance, the same injury will be awarded €12,000–€20,000, again depending on the length of the recovery period.
Minor wrist injuries
Under Book of Quantum guidance, these types of injuries may have paid out up to €27,800 for soft tissue wrist sprains where recovery within a few months was expected. Under the new guidelines, the award will be in the region of €500–€3,000 when recovery occurs within 6 months without requiring surgery. The award is €3,000–10,000 for substantial recovery between six months and two years and €10,000–€18,000 for substantial recovery within two to five years.
Injury or fracture of little finger
Previously, a non-displaced finger fracture that had substantially recovered may have been awarded up to €16,600. Under the new guidelines, little finger injuries now pay out €500–€7,500, where grip has remained impaired.
Loss of teeth
Injuries involving the loss of teeth previously paid out €10,300–€12,700 for the loss of one tooth, but under the new guidelines this is now €3,500–€8,500 for one front tooth or €1,500–€3,000 for one back tooth.
Soft tissue shoulder injury
Under Book of Quantum guidance, these types of injuries may have paid out up to €33,500, however, under the new personal injuries guidelines the award is from €500–€12,000 depending on the length of recovery.
Moderate shoulder injuries
Previously, a frozen shoulder with persistent pain for several years may have paid out between €22,000–€60,000. Moderate injuries requiring joint manipulation, with longer recovery times and extensive treatment, previously paid out €33,000 – €70,600. Under the new personal injury guidelines, these types of injuries now pay out €18,000-35,000, depending on the length of recovery.
Under Book of Quantum guidelines, a simple undisplaced nose fracture with full recovery expected would have paid out €18,000–€22,100. Under the new guidelines, the same type of injury recovered within 2 years pays out €500–€12,000.
Minor brain damage or head injury
Previously, concussion-type injuries where full recovery is expected paid out to up €21,800. Skull fractures with no loss of consciousness and little or no disability would have paid out €34,700–€60,200. Under the new personal injury guidelines, all minor brain damage or head injury cases pay out €500–€3,000 when recovery is expected within 6 months, and €12,000–€25,000 where recovery is expected to take to two to five years.
Will compensation awards be higher in some cases?
Yes. Serious and catastrophic injuries may pay out higher compensation levels under the new guidelines compared to the Book of Quantum. For example, catastrophic injuries resulting in quadriplegia and paraplegia, or injuries resulting in shortened life expectancy, and contracted due to workplace negligence, previously paid general damages of up to €500,000. Under the new guidelines, it is now €550,000.
Concerned about general damages awards for an injury you have sustained?
If you have recently suffered an injury as a result of negligence on the part of a third party, such as your employer or a public transport provider, you may have questions relating to the compensation award you are likely to receive should you win your case. With more than 30 years of experience in bringing successful personal injury negligence claims, the team at McCarthy + Co would be delighted to offer you guidance on your current situation. Call us on 1800 390 555 and an experienced member of staff will discuss your situation and potential next steps. You can also email on email@example.com and we will get back to you as soon as we can.