We are lucky to have a supportive network of clients, and clients who had engaged our services for personal injuries and felt so supported throughout the process that they recommend us to their friends, families and colleagues.
Some of these friends and colleagues then come to us saying “oh, but my friend got more for a less severe injury!”
Unfortunately, for those who came to us after March 2021, their injuries are now ruled by the Personal Injuries Guidelines and not the Book of Quantum.
The Personal Injuries Guidelines established new guidelines for personal injury compensation awards. They changed the amounts of General Damages to be awarded by the Courts and by PIAB with a view to bringing about greater consistency across personal injuries awards and to support greater use of the independent and quicker service provided by PIAB.
The Personal Injuries Guidelines deal with a wide range of injuries in terms of General Damages, which are the amounts awarded for pain and suffering in relation to an injury where someone else is at fault. They do not change Special Damages, which are costs like medical or travel expenses or compensation for loss of wages.
As this gives a guideline for both PIAB and the Courts to use, it should incentivise people to accept the PIAB assessment, negating the need to go to court, which will hopefully reduce claims going through the lengthy and costly litigation process.
If it does make it to court however, a trial judge will ask each party to identify the dominant injury and its severity, based on the Guidelines. After considering the evidence the trial judge should reach her findings about the injury and will then proceed to consider how the Guidelines should impact on the Court’s award. The judge’s duty to have regard to the Guidelines is obligatory. However, if the judge feels that the facts of the case mean that the Guideline should be ignored, they have to state their reasons for this.
It is rare to obtain a singular, individual injury in the context of a litigious personal injury, which makes the assessment of damages more difficult as each injury is assessed separately. If each injury were to be valued separately, the total damages would be so high as to be unjust to the defendant and disproportionate compared to other cases.
The reality of the situation is that additional and/or multiple injuries will actually cause an additional pain and suffering in the life of the claimant, but the way this is assessed does not reflect this. PIAB, the courts, and the guidelines have to reach a balance between ensuring a just award and fairness for the defendant.
The judge/PIAB assessor will identify the dominant injury, and then identify the other injuries and ‘uplift’ the dominant injury award, based on the severity of the other injuries. The aim will be to ensure that the injured is fairly and justly compensated for the additional discomfort, suffering, pain and/or limitations based on the lesser injuries.
The Guidelines can be found online.