These FAQs provide some background information on the Guidelines. They are not, nor purport to be, a legal interpretation.
Frequently Asked Questions
Personal Injury Guidelines
Who prepared the Guidelines?
The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council prepared the Guidelines. The Committee consists of the seven judges named in the Report, who represent each of the five court jurisdictions. They were nominated by the Chief Justice after consultation with the Presidents of the other Courts.
Did those seven judges adopt the Guidelines?
No. After the Guidelines were prepared by the Committee they were sent to the Board of the Judicial Council for review. After that stage was complete the Council, whose membership is all of the judges in Ireland, decided to adopt them.
When will the Guidelines take effect?
The Guidelines, now that they have been adopted by the Judicial Council, take effect once Section 99 of the Judicial Council Act 2019 is commenced by the Minister for Justice.
Why is the Book of Quantum being discontinued?
The Judicial Council Act 2019 provides that the Guidelines will replace the Book of Quantum, once Section 99 of the Act is commenced.
Do these Guidelines encompass all injury, negligence and malpractice awards?
Yes, the Guidelines deal with all claims for general damages for pain and suffering in respect of personal injuries, however caused.
How do the new Guidelines for future awards compare to the awards made by judges in Ireland up until now?
Awards in Ireland across all ranges and in all courts, with the exception of awards for the most serious types of injury and catastrophic injury, will be less than heretofore.
Will the Guidelines apply to PIAB cases and court settlements?
The Guidelines will replace the Book of Quantum, which is relied upon by PIAB in assessing awards which come before that body. Insofar as parties are informed by the Guidelines when engaging in settlement talks, it is anticipated that they will conduct their negotiations based upon what they believe the court would award for the injury concerned having regard to the Guidelines.
Are judges required to follow the Guidelines?
This is set out in detail in Paragraphs 13 and 14 in the Report. In summary, judges are required to follow the awards in the Guidelines. Section 99 of the Act does provide that a judge may depart from the Guidelines for reasons that must be explained.
When will the Guidelines be reviewed?
The Guidelines are required under the terms of the Judicial Council Act 2019 to be reviewed every three years.
Will judges now be required to explain their judgments in lower awards cases?
Judges have always been required to explain the findings they have made in deciding upon the level of damages to be awarded in any case. The introduction of the Guidelines does not change this obligation. However, given that judges are obliged, save for stated reasons, to make their awards in accordance with the Guidelines, judges will clearly have to identify the facts upon which they have relied if they decide to make an award of damages outside of the bracket which best corresponds to the plaintiff’s injury.
How were the amounts for each injury arrived at?
The Committee considered an award of damages of €550,000 would be a fair and just sum in this jurisdiction for catastrophic injury in light of the totality of the advices received. The bracket for each injury category was fixed so as to ensure that the damages proposed for each injury in the Guidelines would be proportionate both to that award and to damages proposed for greater and lesser injuries.
Do other countries have similar Guidelines?
Other countries have personal injuries Guidelines, the format, detail and nature of which vary greatly, as do the factors guiding those Guidelines.
Why were the comparator countries chosen?
The Committee took independent advice from senior counsel as to the countries to which it should pay most attention when it came to proposing brackets of damages for individual injuries (i.e. England and Wales and Northern Ireland). When it came to preparing the Guidelines the Committee attached most weight to the Guidelines in respect of awards of damages for personal injuries in those countries with comparable standards of living, culture and expectations as exist in this country.
Why is there a separate report?
As is set out in Page 4, the report is intended to explain to all relevant stakeholders, and in particular the judiciary who would be required to vote upon the draft Guidelines, the statutory role of the Committee, the manner in which it carried out its role and how, if adopted, the Guidelines would be applied. The Irish judiciary is the only one of which the Committee is aware that has published a report detailing the work that went into preparing the Guidelines for general damages in personal injury cases alongside any Guidelines themselves.
Will this reduce the cost of insurance?
The answer to this question depends upon whether or not or to what extent awards of damages made by Irish courts are responsible for the levels of insurance premiums in the state. It was no part of the role of the Committee to engage upon such an inquiry. However, if there is such a correlation, whether or not the cost of insurance in the State will be reduced as a result of the introduction of the Guidelines will depend upon whether any savings which will accrue to the insurance companies as a result of the Guidelines will be passed on to policyholders.
What about legal costs?
The Guidelines provide greater certainty as to the level of damages likely to be awarded by a court if the case proceeded to trial. It is expected that this greater certainty will lead to increased numbers of early settlements, and therefore a reduction in the legal costs of both claimants and defendants. In addition, it is inevitable that where lower awards apply to a category of injury, it will result in many cases in future being commenced in a lower court. This also has an impact by reducing the costs recoverable.
Will this lead to greater consistency?
The brackets applicable to an injury type are much more tightly drawn which render the guidance more easily applicable to any given case. This will inevitably result in more consistency.