What is the Book of Quantum?
The word ‘quantum’ is the Latin equivalent of the word ‘quantity.’ Used in the legal context, it means the required or allowed amount payable in compensatory damages.
The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) – more recently styling itself as ‘InjuriesBoard.ie’ – was established in 2004. It published ‘version 1’ of the Book of Quantum in June of that year. ‘Version 2’ has never materialised since, meaning that the PIAB is at this stage relying on figures which are over a decade old.
The legislation which established the PIAB provided that assessments would be made on the same basis and by reference to the same principles governing the measure of damages as had been relied upon by the courts historically.
The figures in the Book of Quantum were stated by the PIAB to reflect compensation values awarded by the courts or agreed by insurance companies in settlement agreements in 2003.
According to the Department of Jobs, Enterprise and Innovation, “this guide [was] compiled by independent, internationally recognised consultants, to whom data, on cases dating back to January 2003, [had] been provided from Courts, insurers and self-insured sectors.”
How does the Book of Quantum work?
In its introduction, the Book explains that the steps to be followed in valuing a claim are as follows:-
- Identify the category of injury.
- Understand the severity of the injury.
- Look up the value range.
- Consider the effect of multiple injuries.
Identifying the category of injury
The Book is separated into four main categories being:
- neck, back and trunk;
- arms; and
Within these subcategories injuries are then generally categorised into three levels of severity, with a range of values provided for each level as a guide. As the introduction to the Book concedes: “[s]ome ranges are quite wide, reflecting how the same injury can have very different effects on different people.”
This is a whopping understatement, with wide chasms being present in many instances. For example, depending on the severity involved, a skull fracture can attract compensation of anywhere between €23,300 and €107,000.
The Book also makes it clear that there will be compensation payable for injury types which are not specifically referred to in it. A good example of this is the Supreme Court decision of Kenny v. Cowley in which Judge Denham observed:
“As to the current value of a case where an eye is lost, I sought to refer to the P.I.A.B. Valuation Book. However, I understand that it does not quantify damages for the loss of an eye, as yet.”
As was noted earlier, nothing has changed since Mrs Justice Denham made these comments back in June of 2006, with the exact same categories and values being relied upon today as were introduced in June of 2004.
Understanding the severity of the injury
Once you’ve identified the relevant injury category (if it happens to appear in the Book, that is) the next step is to determine the category of severity that it falls into.
If at the time of the issuing of your assessment by the PIAB your injuries have substantially recovered but you continue to suffer from ongoing symptoms that interfere with carrying out your full day-to-day activities, you will be deemed to come within the “substantially recovered” category.
If your injuries have resulted in some form of permanent incapacity, or a limitation that significantly restricts or alters your lifestyle, your injuries are considered to be “significant ongoing” in nature.
If your injuries are very severe and have caused major disruption to your life in a number of areas, or have resulted in serious continuing pain or require permanent medical attention, they will be deemed to be “serious and permanent conditions.”
Considering the effect of multiple injuries
The Book of Quantum makes it clear that if you’ve suffered multiple injuries you do not simply find each category in the Book and then add up the respective values for each injury. Instead you must identify the most significant injury sustained and use that to determine the value range which you fall into. The additional injuries which you have sustained may then result in a minor adjustment within the value range applying to your most significant injury.
Will my assessment show how the Book of Quantum was used to arrive at the amount calculated for pain and suffering?
Regrettably, the answer is no. If you’ve read this far you’ll have determined that it is quite easy to see how different people given the Book of Quantum could come up with wildly different figures if presented with the same set of facts.
This means that it would be of significant assistance to claimants when deciding on whether or not to accept an assessment to see the rationale which was relied upon to arrive at the compensation figure which has been ascribed to their pain and suffering.
However, the assessment will simply have one figure assigned to “general damages for pain and suffering” meaning that you will have no idea which category of injury the PIAB assessor deemed to be most significant or how they varied the amount of your assessment to take account of any secondary injuries which you may have sustained.
A typical assessment will look like this.
How often is the Book of Quantum updated?
Eleven years on, the current answer is ‘never.’ We’re still expected to gauge the acceptability of assessments based on a document published in 2004 despite the fact that we have witnessed meteoric rises in the cost of living in the ‘Celtic Tiger’ years which flowed after that, followed by the worst recession in living memory, followed by a more recent period of a return to something approaching normality. Nothing in the figures contained in the Book of Quantum has taken these huge peaks and troughs experienced in Irish living standards into consideration.
What’s wrong with the Book of Quantum?
Apart from the shortcomings already mentioned, and the other criticisms expressed by the judiciary which are outlined below, the extremely broad ranges of values for each category of injury can be particularly hazardous for claimants who, due to ongoing pain and suffering, may quite understandably feel that their injuries are at the upper end of the scale even if this is not objectively sustainable when looked at by an experienced professional familiar with personal injury claims.
If an accident victim wrongly relied on their subjective determination that their compensation lay in the upper reaches of the Book of Quantum’s value range for that type of injury, and they rejected what might be seen by an experienced practitioner as a reasonable assessment as a consequence, they could face significant costs penalties in the subsequent court proceedings because if they were not ultimately awarded an amount greater than their assessment by the court they would be forced to pay both their own and the other side’s legal costs out of their award.
Are judges’ hands tied by the Book of Quantum?
Thankfully for claimants, the answer is: ‘kind of, but not really’. Section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act, 2004 states that when a court is assessing damages in a personal injuries action the judge must have regard to the Book of Quantum.
However, the section goes on to provide that a court shall not be prohibited from having regard to matters ‘other than the Book of Quantum’ when assessing damages in a personal injuries action.
From the very outset the judiciary expressed its scepticism about being forced to defer to the Book of Quantum. In a judgment handed down by the Supreme Court in early 2005, Judge Denham conceded that the Book of Quantum was “informative” but went on to note that, in the context of a sexual abuse case such as the one that was before the court, “its usefulness is limited, however, by the fact that it does not relate to purely psychological damage, and it does not relate to injuries for sexual abuse.”
This was followed by the comments of Mr Justice Budd in the High Court case of McFadden v. Weir when he observed:
“I have considerable reservations about the usefulness of the P.I.A.B. Book of Quantum as so much depends on one’s assessment of the personality of the individual plaintiff and how devastating the effect of the particular injuries have been on such a person with the relevant particular circumstances and character.”
In the 2013 case of O’Neill v. Rawluk, Mr Justice Moriarty admitted that he had “derived little assistance” from the Book of Quantum in a complicated case where he had to assess damages in a situation where the onset of Parkinson’s Disease in the injured party made it difficult to determine the effects of the botched surgery for which compensation was being sought.
Mr Justice Cross has not been afraid to express his hostility to the obligation of the courts to have regard to what he obviously believes at this stage to be a document that is no longer fit for purpose having regard to its old age. In the 2013 case of Ryan v. KGK Tiles Limited he stated that “the compensation guidelines by the government body which makes personal injury awards, the Injuries Board, were out of date and, therefore, not relevant in this case.”
Similarly, in the 2014 case of Tevlin v. McArdle and MIBI Judge Cross observed:
“In relation to general damages, I am obliged to take account of the Book of Quantum from 2004. Generally speaking, I do not find the Book of Quantum of assistance, given its antiquity. Nothing in the Book of Quantum really relates to the plaintiff’s injuries. In previously cases, I have heard it argued that with the downturn in the economy, the Book of Quantum might again have relevance, but it is not correct to say that since 2008, there has been any deflation, rather, there has been some inflation, and coupled with the inflation between 2004 and 2009, I find it is of no assistance to me.”