The High Court has again reiterated that there is very little leniency shown to Plaintiffs that do not bring their claim for personal injuries within the required 2 year statute of limitations period.
The case involved a road traffic accident that occurred on 21 September 2011 in Donegal.
The Defendant’s insurer, Liberty Insurance, investigated the circumstances surrounding the accident and were prepared to settle the matter with the Plaintiff on the basis that she was not at fault.
The Plaintiff first contacted her solicitor on 23 May 2013 after engaging first with Liberty directly to settle matters. The solicitor’s understanding of the situation was that a settlement figure of €20,000 had been made and rejected by the Plaintiff.
On 16 July 2013 the Plaintiff’s solicitor wrote a letter to Liberty calling for an admission of liability. Liberty replied to this correspondence on 22 July 2013, calling for the solicitor to arrange a settlement meeting with their Regional Manager.
Critically, this invitation to agree on a settlement meeting went unanswered by the Plaintiff’s Solicitor and he did not seek clarification in relation to liability which had not been conceded. In addition, the Plaintiff’s Solicitor continued to seek medical reports and a copy of the Garda Abstract report.
On 11 October 2013 the solicitor submitted an application to the Injuries Board, by which time the Plaintiff’s claim was statute barred.
Proceedings subsequently were issued against Liberty’s Policyholder. Liberty filed a full Defence pleading that the claim was statute barred.
The Plaintiff sought to argue that the conduct of Liberty was unconscionable and that the plea of statute bar was dishonest given the interactions that had occurred during the limitation period.
Judge Barton accepted the Defence of Liberty and dismissed the Plaintiff’s claim, making the following observations;
- Insurers are within their rights to rely on the statute regardless of their stance or conduct during the limitation period.
- Solicitors have an obligation to ensure that if a claim is not settled within the relative limitation period that proceedings are issued to protect the rights of the Plaintiff.
A full text of the Judgment can be found here