I was clearing out some old papers recently when I came across a flyer from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board dating back to 2005 when they had just been set up. I was struck by how different their early literature was to the current promotional material and I thought it might be useful for readers to take a look at what the Injuries Board does, and offer a personal perspective on how injured persons are best served when their case is being processed though the Injuries Board.
Back in 2005, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), as it is formally known, was set up by statute and since then, all injured persons are required by law to submit an application to PIAB before being able to proceed to the courts if they wish to seek compensation for their injuries.
Right from the start, legal practitioners specialising in the area of personal injury law such as myself were concerned by PIAB’s hostility to injured persons having access to independent legal advice. Many suggested that this hostility was because PIAB was a creature of the Irish insurance industry and was largely staffed by former insurance personnel. Whether this is correct or not, it is certainly true that PIAB did their best to discourage anyone who has been injured from having access to independent legal advice and they do this in a number of ways. Firstly, the law that established PIAB specified that if an injured person sought legal advice, PIAB was not permitted to make any award of costs so that the injured person would have to pay for their solicitor from their compensation. Secondly, they initially refused to correspond with solicitors. This was an appalling act of injustice by a statutory body but it went on for well over a year until the High Court intervened and ordered them to correspond with the solicitors of applicants. A friend of mine once commented that this policy was as bizarre as if the Revenue Commissioners refused to communicate with a person’s accountant on the basis presumably that the accountant would actually know what Revenue were talking about. Incredibly, PIAB appealed that High Court decision to the Supreme Court and of course lost again. More recently, PIAB – or since their rebranding – the Injuries Board, have been advertising trying to discourage applicants from engaging independent legal advice with warnings that they will have to pay their own solicitor and their website goes so far as to encourage applicants to save money by not engaging a solicitor.
Thankfully, people who have been injured and are entitled to compensation seem have a lot more sense than PIAB/Injuries Board give credit for. Last available statistics showed that about 90% of applicants do so through a solicitor. The other 10% however are in my experience making a big mistake and here is why.
PIAB/ Injuries Board works by looking at the medical report you submit and then sending you to one of the doctors on their panel. Sometimes I have seen them send an injured person to a second doctor but rarely. They conduct a fairly superficial study of the injury and must by law conclude this within 9 months of commencing their assessment. Then, with reference to a now almost 10 year old book of injury valuations, they make an assessment. Little wonder they don’t want people to have independent legal advice! In most cases the assessment amount is well short of the true amount of compensation that the injured party is entitled to in the court process and of course, in that court process, the successful injured party is also entitled to recover their legal costs in addition to their compensation.
In my practice, out of hundreds of cases, I have only once seen a court award less that PIAB had assessed damages at and that was corrected on appeal. In many cases I have seen improvements of up to 400% when the court has come to consider the correct compensation for a properly prepared case.
The other essential thing to remember about an accident-related injury is that it usually takes more than the 9 or 12 months the PIAB/Injuries Board allows to settle down. Nor can it often be described in detail with just one or possibly two reports from the doctors on the Injuries Board panel. For this reason, it is very often necessary to wait 18 to 24 months from the date of injury to ensure that the treating doctors are clear on the full effects of the injury on their patient. Usually after such a period a very clear prognosis would also be available so that a person can settle their case secure in the knowledge that there will be no surprises down the road for which they would otherwise go uncompensated - had they been forced to accept the early PIAB/Injuries Board assessment.
The Injuries Board is now little more than a business, dedicated to turning as many applications for injuries as possible in any given year and taking their fees from the insurers and injured parties. Having a State created monopoly, it is not surprising that they make a lot of money. Like all monopolies, they want to protect their position and clearly see the danger in injuries persons being independently advised by solicitors who know the true ‘value’ of an injury.
As for legal costs, at my firm, very few clients have to pay any fees from their compensation while enjoying the benefit of experienced legal advice and a much better outcome in terms of the amount of compensation they recover for their injury and loss.
If you have a query regarding a personal injury such as a road traffic accident, a workplace injury or illness or an injury in a public place such as a fall in a supermarket or on a footpath, contact Cian O’Carroll Solicitors on Freephone 1-800 60-70-80 or visit www.TIPPLAW.com
Cian O’Carroll Solicitors, A Medical Negligence & Personal Injury Law Firm