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PIAB and Personal Injuries

1. In Ireland, to suffer an injury in a road traffic accident is to be at the beginning of a painful (in every sense), long, and tiresome process.

2. Since the establishment of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (“PIABâ€?) in 2003, it is no longer lawful, with some exceptions, for an injured person (“applicantâ€?) to promptly and of course, seek compensation for such injuries in court.

3. Under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 such applicants are obliged, if they seek compensation, to undergo the difficult and often long-drawn out procedures of PIAB.

4. The immediately relevant difference between a PIAB assessment and a verdict from a court is that the verdict is binding, whereas a PIAB assessment is not. That means that if the applicant does not like the result of the PIAB assessment, the applicant is not obliged to settle for that sum. Likewise, if the person (“respondentâ€?) alleged to have injured the applicant does not like the result of the PIAB assessment, s/he is not obliged to pay that sum.

5. Indeed, unlike the applicant, if the respondent does not like the PIAB process at all, s/he is not obliged to submit to it at all.

6. In the event of any of those cases occurring PIAB is obliged to issue a certificate of authorisation to the applicant and that person is then free to issue proceedings in court in the traditional fashion.

7. The length of time it will take an applicant to get authorisation varies from case to case. Generally speaking it is highly desirable to commence the process as soon as possible. Under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 the time within which proceedings seeking compensation for personal injury must be issued was shortened from three years to two years. Time does not run against the applicant to PIAB during the PIAB process, but it only stops running when the applicant receives a letter from PIAB confirming the application has been registered with it.

8. As the application to PIAB must be accompanied by a medical report, it is necessary to get that first. The PIAB application form is available from the PIAB website. The application must be accompanied by a non-refundable payment of €50.

9. In a sense, this is the minimum cost to the applicant of discovering whether the respondent will submit to the PIAB process.

10. Following registration of the application, PIAB writes to the respondent who has ninety days to consent or decline to submit. Failure to respond is deemed consent to submission. Submission, express or deemed, is not any form of admission relating to the merits the applicant’s claim.

11. There are very good reasons for a respondent to decline to submit, or to reject an assessment.

12. The PIAB system takes no account of contributory negligence. Contributory negligence arises where the applicant has also been negligent and is, to a greater or lesser degree, at fault and the cause of his/her own misfortune.

13. Of course, the PIAB system is predicated on the assumed fault of the respondent. If the respondent denies liability the PIAB system is inappropriate and the respondent will decline to submit (or to accept the assessment).

14. Ironically, PIAB itself is not obliged to process an application. It has a discretion to decline (having pocketed the €50). Some of the grounds for adopting this course are:

a) The injuries are complex;

b) The injuries include, or consist of, psychological injury;

c) Aggravated or exemplary damages are sought to be recovered;

d) The injuries arose from a trespass to the person. (Put otherwise, cases of assault);

e) Death of the applicant is potentially imminent;

15. Assuming the process of assessment is commenced, PIAB has nine months to make an assessment. In fact, PIAB is entitled to a further extension of six months to complete the assessment, that is, a total of fifteen months.

16. If an assessment is made and communicated to the applicant and the respondent, the applicant has twenty eight days to accept and the respondent has twenty one days to decline. Failure by the applicant and or respondent to accept or decline is a deemed rejection.

17. Consequently, an authorisation will then issue.

18. The reference to the exceptions to the obligation to make application to PIAB was a reference to the following categories;

a) Medical negligence claims;

b) Claims under the Garda Compensation system;

19. The common categories of claims falling within the PIAB system are:

a) Employers’ liability;

b) Road traffic accidents;

c) Public liability claims;

d) Fatal injuries claims;

20. A major difference between the PIAB system and court proceedings is the absence of provision for the payment of an applicant’s legal costs. It is generally acknowledged (implicitly in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003) that an applicant needs the assistance of a solicitor in submitting the application to PIAB. Therefore, applicants must factor in the need to judge the PIAB compensation assessment in the light of the obligation to pay those costs, before deciding to accept an assessment.

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