The definition of personal injury encompasses any injury or illness which has been either caused, rendered symptomatic or exacerbated, as a result of another party’s negligence. The legal definition under the Civil Liability Act 1961 is:
…any disease and any impairment of a person’s physical or mental condition, and “injured” shall be construed accordingly.
This entails that an injury can be physical or psychological in nature.
There are three conditions that must be satisfied in order to have a viable personal injury claim:
1. Duty of Care
There must have been an obligation present to avoid injuring another party or to avoid placing them in a position where they may be injured.
This is where an individual fails to meet their duty of care and causes another party to be injured.
Your solicitor must prove that this negligence was the cause of your injuries.
What Is Considered Personal Injury in a Road Traffic Accident?
A road traffic accident is a collision involving a vehicle on a road or a public place that has caused injury or damage to a person, animal or other vehicle or property. You can be a victim of a road traffic accident whether you are driving, a passenger, a pedestrian, riding a bicycle, scooter or horse when you sustain the injury. If the cause of the road traffic accident was not your fault, you may have a viable personal injury claim.
Types of Injuries
The most common types of injuries that occur following a road traffic accident are:
- Back injuries
- Neck injuries
- Whiplash injuries
- Shoulder injuries;
- Soft tissue injuries;
- Arm injuries;
- Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
- Spinal injuries
Delayed accident symptoms claims are also common as there can be several symptoms which may not develop for a significant time following the accident.
What Is a Personal Injury Claim?
According to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, road traffic accidents are the most common source of personal injury claims in Ireland.
The claims will be made against the driver of the other vehicle, and the owner, if this is not the same person. However, it will be their insurance company that takes the reins on the case and will make the call in relation to accepting/rejecting PIAB’s offer, settling the case etc.
The key condition for a claim of this nature is that you were involved in a road traffic accident that was not your fault, and the negligence of the third party caused you to be injured.
What is the Time Limit for a Personal Injury Claim?
In most cases, an injured party has two years from the date of an accident to pursue a claim. If left too late and a claimant brings their claim after this time period, they can, unfortunately, find that they have run out of time and that they are what is termed as Statute Barred.
On rare occasions, there can be limited exceptions to this general rule such as:
- Where an injured party only became aware that they were injured sometime after the accident.
- The injured party had no way of knowing who had injured them or who was at fault for the accident.
- When a minor is involved in an accident, if their parent or guardian has not pursued a case on their behalf, they can then start the claim process when they turn eighteen and their two-year time limit will start when the child turns 18.
It is always advisable to obtain advice from a solicitor who will be able to counsel you as to whether you are still within time to pursue a claim.
Road Traffic Accident Claims Process
The road traffic accident claims process can be a tricky one if you don’t have all the information regarding the procedure that needs to be followed. Here are steps you should follow if you find yourself involved in a road traffic accident:
1. Seek Medical Attention
You should seek medical attention as soon as possible following the accident. It is important to have any injuries assessed as soon as possible. This will hopefully reduce the risk of your injuries worsening. In addition to reducing further risks, your initial attendance notes from your medical practitioner will be referred to, in order to support your personal injuries claim.
It is also important to note that where you sustain a minor injury and feel fine at the time of the accident, this could progress into a more serious injury and as such you should seek medical attention as soon as reasonably possible.
2. Gather All Relevant Information at the Scene of the Accident
You should gather information, such as the name and addresses of the other individuals involved in the accident. You should also obtain the vehicle registration, to allow your solicitor to confirm who is the registered owner of the vehicle. It is also important to obtain their insurance details.
You should also obtain the names and contact details of any witnesses and it would be wise to take photographs of the scene, the damage to the vehicles and the roadway on which the accident occurred.
You should write an account of what happened, and all relevant details connected to the accident when you can, and you should do so while the details are still fresh in your head.
3. Report the Incident to the Gardaí
You have a legal obligation to stay at the scene of the accident for a reasonable timeframe. You should contact the Gardaí and once they arrive, you must provide them with your name and address, the address where your car is kept, the name and address of the car owner, if different, your car’s registration number and your motor insurance details. If no Garda attends the scene, you must report the accident as soon as possible at a nearby Garda station.
You should also gather information in relation to the name and number of the Garda to whom the accident was reported.
4. Contact your Insurance Company
Your insurance policy may require you to report any accident you are involved in, even if it was not your fault. As such, you should contact your insurance company to notify them of the accident, even if you do not intend on bringing a claim.
5. Contact an Expert Road Traffic Accident Solicitor
You should contact a road traffic accident solicitor as soon as reasonably possible. Your solicitor will assist you throughout the process and protect your interest.
A solicitor can assist you in dealing with gaining appropriate compensation for the damage to your vehicle (the material damage claim). They can arrange to instruct a motor assessor to carry out an inspection of your vehicle and prepare a motor assessor’s report and will also assist in liaising with the Gardai, etc, if appropriate.
How Long Does a Personal Injury Claim Take?
There are many factors that can affect the length of your personal injury action arising out of a road traffic accident:
1. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board
The first application made by your solicitor on your behalf is to submit your application to the Personal Injuries Board to be assessed. PIAB has nine months to revert your solicitor with their assessment. Following their assessment, both you and the defendant's insurance company will have 28 days to accept or reject the award.
2. The Defendant's Insurance Company
While your solicitor will endeavour to progress your case promptly, they cannot control the speed at which the insurance companies act.
3. Getting Expert Reports
To efficiently run your case, your solicitor will need to gather documents and obtain reports from experts, such as doctors, engineers, etc. This will include you attending appointments on different occasions. Gathering these reports can take some time but your cooperation and your attendance at these appointments should allow these to be obtained in a timely manner.
4. Legal Proceedings
If you or the Defendant's insurance company reject PIAB's assessment, your solicitor will then issue a Personal Injuries Summons on your behalf. Once the Personal Injuries Summons is issued and served on the Defendant, several other proceedings need to be filed before your solicitor would be in a position to bring you to trial. While the vast majority of cases will settle out of court, your solicitor will always prepare for that occasion.
5. Your Injuries
If your injuries have not recovered and you are still symptomatic, your solicitor will continue to obtain expert reports and try to obtain a prognosis as to your injuries. This can take time as it may require you to be seen by further doctors or experiment with some pain management if this is recommended by the experts.