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Personal Injuries Guidelines adopted by the Judicial Council

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The Judicial Council has adopted the Personal Injury Guidelines ("the Guidelines"), which recalibrate awards of damages in personal injuries claims. The recalibration is almost universally downwards.
 
The Guidelines were prepared by the Personal Injury Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council which consists of seven named judges representing each of the five court jurisdictions.
 
After the Guidelines were prepared by the Committee, they were considered by the Board of the Judicial Council which has now decided to adopt them with 86 Judges voting in favour, and 64 voting against. 
 
The Guidelines will be used for all claims for general damages, for pain and suffering in respect of personal injuries, including claims for medical negligence.
 
The Guidelines will take effect once Section 99 of the Judicial Council Act 2019 is commenced by the Minister for Justice and it is anticipated that that will be done without delay. Once that happens, the Guidelines will replace the Book of Quantum and will be used by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and across all court jurisdictions. 
 
Judges will be required to follow the awards set out in the Guidelines. If they wish to depart from the Guidelines, they must clearly identify the facts upon which they have relied in doing so and must explain their decision. 
 
The Guidelines will be reviewed every three years.
 
Will this reduce the cost of insurance?
 
There has been much media commentary from various stakeholders in the legal insurance and business sectors.  The insurance and business sectors predict that the awards do not go far enough to result in decreased insurance costs.  The legal industry predicts a significant diminution in awards and resultant legal costs.  Much of this commentary is along predictable lines. 
 
What is without doubt is that the Guidelines will provide greater certainty and predictability as to the level of damages likely to be awarded by a Court in any particular case.  It is expected that this certainly will lead to increased numbers of early settlements and therefore a reduction in legal costs for both claimants and defendants.  Furthermore, in circumstances where lower awards will apply to most categories of injury, there is a very strong likelihood that many cases will be commenced in the lower courts, which will also have the result of reducing legal costs. 
 
The adoption of the Guidelines is a significant milestone in the Government's programme for insurance reform.  Undoubtedly, it will now look to the insurance industry to reciprocate with lower insurance costs.  Time will tell whether this latest initiative will deliver on that objective.   
 
A copy of the Guidelines can be found here.

Written by Killian O'Reilly.
 

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