Irish compensation settlements may be brought to the High Court for a variety of reasons, though it is important to note that the majority of claims made will never actually have a High Court hearing as they are settled before that stage. However, should the case prove particularly complex, entail a dispute over the compensation settlement, or involve undetermined liability or contributory negligence, the claim for compensation will often proceed to the High Court for resolution.
For cases involving personal injury claims, fewer than twenty percent of the claims will meet the above criteria and as such are settled before reaching the High Court.
The Role of the Injuries Board in High Court Cases
Before personal injury cases are even considered for court hearings, they must first be filed with the Injuries Board Ireland. The Injuries Board is a government body that evaluates the amount of compensation to which an injures party is entitled. However, if the allegedly negligent party refuses to consent to an Injuries Board assessment, the injured party will be issued with authorization by the board to proceed with their claim in the courts.
If the respondent (the party from which you are seeking compensation) agrees to the assessment, the Injuries Board will investigate the claim using medical evidence provided by the claimant’s doctor and, additionally, a report complied by an independent doctor. The damages are then assessed based upon the injuries sustained in the accident and the personal circumstances. If either party disputes the sum of compensation calculated as a result of the assessment, the case can then proceed to the courts, and may have a High Court hearing.
One notable exception to this rule is medical negligence claims, which are not assessed by the Injuries Board.
As has been discussed, the vast majority of cases in Ireland will not require a High Court hearing for resolution as they are settled through other means. The negotiations between the parties are mediated by solicitors, and will often resolve a claim for compensation before – or sometimes on – the set trial date.
The plaintiff’s solicitor should represent their client’s best interest, at every stage explaining the various advantages and disadvantages of accepting an out-of-court payment. Though not always the case, there can be a discrepancy between the amount of compensation that is offered through out-of-court negotiations and what would be awarded by a judge, but there are also risks with taking a claim to court.
However, should the negotiations break down between the parties, the claimant can decide to pursue their claim in court.
High Court Cases
Though cases may proceed to the courts for a verdict, not all will go to the High Court. The court has unlimited power to award compensation settlements, meaning that there is no upper limit on the value of compensation settlements that they award.
The format a High Court hearing will be determined by the details of an individual case, most prominently whether or not the defendant – as the respondent is now termed – has admitted liability.
The hearing commences with an outline delivered by the plaintiff’s barrister, who details the case and any injuries sustained by their client to the judge. Any medical reports relevant to the case will also be presented at this point. The plaintiff is then called upon to give an accurate account of how they sustained their injuries and any long-term impacts it has had upon their lives. The plaintiff may also undergo a cross-examination, which is conducted by the defendant’s barrister. Any other witnesses testifying on behalf of the plaintiff will also, at this point, give evidence and undergo cross-examinations.
This is then repeated for the defendants, and once all witnesses have spoken and cross-examinations have been conducted, the barristers for both parties will summarise their case for the court.
The judge’s verdict will be influenced by a number of factors, such as the culpability of the defendant, the sum of compensation to which the plaintiff is entitled and to which party the responsibility falls to pay the cost of court proceedings. Should the plaintiff be awarded a High Court compensation settlement, they usually have their legal costs paid for by the defendant.
High Court Compensation Settlements
There are two broad classifications of settlements in Irish High Court cases: general damages and special damages.
General damages serve to compensate the plaintiff for any inconvenience, pain and trauma incurred by the accident, whether it was past or continuing by the time the case is heard in court. The court will then assess the severity of the plaintiff’s injuries and the impact they have had on his or her quality of life. The court will account for the medical records provided to them, the witness’ testimonies and the prognosis for the patient’s future health.
Special damages are awarded to compensate for any financial burdens placed upon the plaintiff as a result of the accident, which again can be past or future. Examples of this type of compensation can include any medical expenses paid by the plaintiff, any loss of earnings or costs to repair damages property.
Any compensation due to the plaintiff is usually paid by cheque within six to eight weeks of the High Court Hearing.
High Court Compensation Settlements in Ireland: A Summary
Though it is true that the vast majority of personal injury claims made in Ireland will never reach the High Court, it is important for plaintiffs to understand the procedures involved with a High Court hearing when considering to make a claim for compensation. It is particularly important when out-of-court negotiations are involved, as the plaintiff may want to consider considering whether or not to accept any offers of compensation that result from out-of-court negotiations, as the High Court may decide to rule against the plaintiff, meaning that they will not receive any compensation settlement.
However, it is vitally important that any potential plaintiffs consult legal counsel before proceeding on any action, as solicitors will be able to advise their clients at every stage concerning the best course of action.