Personal injury awards will be reduced in the near future under new guidelines agreed between the government and judiciary. Some awards for injuries sustained in road traffic accidents and in the workplace have been too high in recent years. High awards here have also had the undesirable effect of tempting many litigants in to exaggerating or even fake their injuries and sometimes the accident itself.
Injuries by themselves are irrelevant unless the plaintiff can also establish on the balance of probabilities that the defendant was negligent and that his act of negligence was responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries. In one case the client suffered terrible injuries when his tiny Fiat 500 was hit by a huge cement lorry on a small country road. The Plaintiff had to be extracted from his car and spent months in recovery leaving him with a limp. However, forensic evidence offered by the Garda suggested the 90 metre skid marks of the Fiat 500 indicated the plaintiff was driving way over the speed limit and the high court dismissed his claim and awarded costs against him. You must prove negligence before your injuries will be considered.
In a Circuit court case last week, the plaintiff sued a holiday company because when a little boy was lifted up by his father, his head was struck by an overhead fan and he was hurt. There was no doubt the little boy was injured, and it was certainly not his fault, but the fan itself was not loose or defective, so who was to blame ? The judge found that this was just an unfortunate incident typical of the swings and roundabouts of life and that no one was to blame for the accident. It would have been a different situation if, for example, the fan came loose from the ceiling and struck the little boy. No other party had been careless or negligent in the hotel bedroom on that day and the judge had little hesitation in striking out the claim but in a considerate move, made no order as to costs against the plaintiff father.
The first thing to happen in an accident is injury and sometimes it can be serious. But this is not enough to pursue a claim for compensation as the injured party must establish also that the other party has been negligent and that involves legal considerations.