How long does a personal injury* claim take in Ireland?
The timeframe for resolving a personal injury claim is not exact as each claim is unique both in respect of the nature of the injury itself and how it arose. However, there are some time limits that are applied when processing each part of the claim and we discuss those time limits below, along with the unknown timeframes.
Generally, catastrophic injury claims can take in the region of 3 years to resolve, however as mentioned, that is dependent on a range of factors. A birth injury claim can take in the region of 3 – 5 years to resolve.
It is important to note that an adult claimant only has 2 years less 1 day from the date of injury to issue proceedings in court (there are some limited exceptions to this).
When claiming on behalf of a child, a parent or guardian can issue proceedings at any time up until the child’s 18th birthday. Thereafter, the young adult has two years to bring a birth injury claim in their own right.
General Claim Timeframes
Personal Injuries Board Assessment (PIAB):
1 to 9 months.
In the case of a catastrophic injury, PIAB would typically release the application so that the matter to be dealt with by the courts from the outset, as it is too complex a claim for them to assess. Also, a PIAB assessment is not needed in medical negligence or psychological injury claims
Statute of Limitations:
Adult claimant: 2 years less 1 day from the date of injury for the claimant to issue proceedings in court.
Child claimant: a parent or guardian can issue proceedings at any time up until the child’s 18th birthday
You will provide your solicitors with your formal instructions (details of the accident/injury, medical details, details of the alleged person or party at fault etc.). They will then advise if it might be worthwhile pursuing a claim for compensation.
Your solicitors will need to review the relevant records and evidence relating to your injury and the accident e.g. medical records, CCTV footage, Garda reports etc. It can take a number of months for the various parties involved to release those records to your solicitors. It is advisable for you to request the relevant records shortly after the injury occurred, so as to speed up the investigation process. Information on how to request medical records is typically available on hospital websites under ‘Freedom of Information’.
Once all the relevant information is obtained, your solicitors will then prepare your PIAB application, if applicable.
For most claims, you are required to lodge a Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) application before the matter may be dealt with by the courts.
PIAB applications are not required for medical negligence claims or psychological injury claims.
The Statute of Limitations requires that your PIAB application is lodged 2 years less 1 day from the date of injury. In the case of children, a parent or guardian can lodge the child’s application on their behalf at any point in time up until the child’s 18th birthday. After which, the young adult can lodge their application themselves 2 years less 1 day from the date of their 18th birthday.
PIAB is an independent state body who assess personal injury claims outside of the court room. They determine the amount of compensation that that should be provided (if any). If either of the parties disagree with the level of compensation, then PIAB will release the claim and compensation can then be pursued through the court system.
Typically in the case of a catastrophic injury, PIAB would automatically release the claim for it to be dealt with by the court system from the outset, as it is too complicated a matter for them to assess.
When PIAB is assessing your application, the Statute of Limitations clock is paused.
If PIAB decides to assess your claim, you will typically have to wait a period of 7 – 9 months for them to make their recommendation in respect of the level of compensation that you should receive (if any). You will then have a period of 28 days to decide whether to accept or reject the award. If either party doesn’t agree with the level of the award, then PIAB will release the claim for it to be pursued through the court system.
If your claim is released from PIAB, the Statute of Limitations clock recommences 6 months from the date of release.
Establishing Liability & Causation
Before court proceedings can be issued, your solicitors will need to obtain at least one expert report to establish whether the injury arose as a result of another person’s or party’s negligence. The speciality of the expert(s) will depend on how the injury arose e.g. if it was a personal injury, such as a road traffic accident, that expert may be a forensic engineer, or if the injury arose as a result of potential medical negligence case, the expert would be a medical doctor. Experts usually have a long lead in time and it can take a number of months to receive these reports.
Issuing Court Proceedings
Once a supportive liability and causation report has been obtained, your solicitors can then formally issue court proceedings. This is the very first step of getting your case up and running. Proceedings for catastrophic injury claims are typically issued in the High Court.
Statute of Limitations time limit:
Other than the extra 6 months afforded to you from the date of the release of your PIAB assessment (if applicable), The Statute of Limitations Act 1957 requires that your court proceedings are issued 2 years less 1 day from the date of injury.
If the injured party is a child, a parent or guardian can issue proceedings on the child’s behalf at any point in time up until the child’s 18th birthday. After which, the young adult can issue their court proceedings in their own right 2 years less 1 day from the date of their 18th birthday.
Exceptions to the time limit:
Sometimes, an injury or illness may not become noticeable until a while after the incident occurred. This is when the date of knowledge can become the start date for the timeline for issuing proceedings. The date of knowledge is the date on which you were aware of the following:
- You had been injured
- The injury was significant
- The injury was caused by the negligence of another person or party
- You were able to identify who that person or party was
- When the injured party is mentally impaired as a result of sustaining their injury
- When the injury sustained is of such a serious nature, that the injured party was rendered incapable of making a claim. The 2 year less 1 day time limit commences on the date that the person is deemed well enough to make a claim.
- Misdiagnosis of an illness. The 2 year less 1 day time limit commences on the date of the correct diagnosis.
Medical and Quantum Reports
Your solicitors will obtain a variety of medical and quantum related reports from experts to build up your case. This process can take a year, or sometimes longer, depending on the nature and severity of the injury.
These reports are obtained for the purpose of detailing your current condition and your future prognosis from a medical perspective. If appropriate, some of these reports may be obtained from your treating doctors e.g. your GP, your neurologist, your rehabilitation consultant etc.
These are the reports which your solicitors will use for the purpose of calculating the bulk of the value of your claim for compensation. Your solicitors will instruct a number of experts to assess your current needs and what your needs will look like moving into the future.
Quantum experts can include physiotherapists, occupational therapists, care consultants, housing experts, assistive technology experts, vocational assessors, psychologists, rehabilitation consultants etc. These experts will make a number of recommendations to help you live a more independent life moving into the future.
Finally, an actuary will review all of those quantum reports to calculate the total value of those future recommendations.
The solicitors for the Defendant will typically obtain like for like reports. This means that for every type of expert your solicitor sends you to, the Defendant will arrange for you to see an expert of the same profession for them. The Defendant’s experts will also ascertain your past & future needs.
Conclusion of a Case
When both sides have obtained all their expert reports, the legal papers can be finalised and they will then be ready to conclude the case.
The vast majority of cases end up settling outside of the court room, however, there is never a guarantee that a case will not go to trial.
It is difficult to say how long it will take to resolve a case if it proceeds to trial as it can depend on how busy the courts are at any particular time in the year.