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General Damages – New Personal Injury Guidelines

The new Personal Injuries Guidelines were adopted by the Judicial Council on the 6th of March 2021 and come into effect on the 24th of April 2021. These new guidelines will change the amounts of General Damages (damages awarded for pain and suffering in relation to an injury where someone else is at fault) to be awarded by the Courts and by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and will replace the Book of Quantum in all personal injury claims following the commencement date. They seek to promote a better understanding of the principles governing the assessment and award of damages for personal injuries with a view to achieving greater consistency in awards notwithstanding that cases will invariably have their own unique features.

The principles which underlie the Court’s jurisdiction in making an award of General Damages require awards to be fair and reasonable to both claimant and defendant, they must be proportionate to the injuries sustained and must also be proportionate when viewed in the context of awards of damages commonly made in cases involving injuries of a greater or lesser magnitude. Whilst the Court retains its independence and discretion in relation to the making of an award of General Damages, the Court must make its assessment having regard to the guidelines and where it departs from them it should state the reasons for such departure in its judgment.

The new guidelines reset award levels for Ireland. For soft tissue injuries the new levels will be substantially lower than previous levels, while awards for more serious cases are expected to increase. This is seen as an important step in delivering fair, consistent and reasonable compensation to claimants and bringing down the high cost of insurance in Ireland.

If a claim is assessed prior to the 24th April 2021 commencement date it will be assessed based on the “old” book of quantum. All claims assessed after the commencement date will be based on the new guidelines. It remains to be seen how the guidelines will be interpreted by the courts and just how significant an adjustment there will be to the level of general damages that we are familiar with in Ireland. Certainly Insurers and self-insurers will be expecting a real discount on the costs of claims and new plaintiffs are sure to be disappointed.

If you need help in defending personal injury claims we would be pleased to talk to you.

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