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Time waits for no man and certainly that is the case for victims of accidents in their endeavours to recover compensation for personal injuries arising from Road Traffic Accidents, Work Accidents and Public Liability Claims.*

The Injuries Board has long been touted (mainly by the Injuries Board) as a simple method of dealing with Personal Injury Claims.  It is hard to go online these days and not see an Injuries Board advert flash before your eyes and certainly they are being hawkish in directing claims to the site which contrives to simplify the process and deal with these claims in a “lawyer free zone”.

Of course the reality is much different and a recent case highlights the complexities and difficulties that can arise in what might be categorised as the most straight forward of cases.

In this particular case the Plaintiff, with the benefit of legal advice, was required to battle his case all the way to the Supreme Court. The Plaintiff won on a preliminary point raised in the High Court and that decision was appealed to the Supreme Court by the Defendant.  The Defendant through their insurers fought tooth and nail to have the Plaintiff’s claim statute barred on the basis that he did not bring the case in time, in other words not within the 2 year limitation period set out in the Statue of Limitations Act.

It is of course every Defendant’s right to defend a case but this is not the point here.  The point is that the Injuries Board are broadcasting the view that people can deal with their claims without the benefit of legal advice, that a solicitor is trained to provide, and the old saying “the lawyer who acts for himself has a fool for a client” springs to mind. It is well known even lawyers will not represent themselves in most cases not least because it is difficult to be detached and objective.

In the case at question the Plaintiff, Mr Renehan, was employed as a security officer at Club Diva at the Red Cow Inn Complex on the Naas Road.  The facts are that a car mounted a footpath, drove through a number of bollards and struck the Plaintiff causing injury.  With the help of his solicitors he instituted a claim against Mr Thomas Moran who owned the Red Cow, Naas Road and this was the address given for Club Diva in the Registration of Business Names Register.

Mr Moran declined to allow the Injuries Board assess the case and the Injuries Board issued an authorisation allowing the issue of proceedings in court.

It ultimately transpired that the club was not in fact run by Mr Moran but by a limited liability company T&S Taverns Limited, this company also being the owner of the Red Cow.  This was pleaded in the defence put forward by Mr Moran.

The Plaintiff was now faced with a situation where an application had to be made to the Injuries Board for the amendment of the authorisation to include the correct Defendant, being T&S Taverns Limited. The Injuries Board issued the new authorisation naming T&S Taverns Limited which would allow the commencement of proceedings by the Plaintiff.

It is fair to say the Injuries Board were very helpful but the Defendants brought a preliminary application in the High Court seeking to dismiss the case on the grounds that it was statue barred because the “second authorisation” was in fact issued at a time outside the expiry of the Statute of Limitations and therefore the plaintiff could not succeed in proceedings against T & S Taverns Limited.

The matter was ruled by the High Court in favour of the Plaintiff however this was appealed to the Supreme Court and its judgment was delivered on the 21st of January 2015.

The judgement outlines the undisputed facts and grapples with the myriad statutory provisions under the Civil Liability Act, Statute of Limitations Act and the Personal Injury Assessment Board Acts.

The three judges reasoning was that the Injuries Board was set up as a novel compulsory procedure into the process of civil litigation and it was specifically set up to reduce the costs associated with personal injury cases. They agreed the Act setting up the Injuries Board “is a very elaborate and complex mechanism and it is not clear that there is any statutory policy as to what should happen in claims in which there is a significant doubt as to the identity of the correct Defendant“.

In the case at issue they ruled that the original application to the Injuries Board with the wrong Defendant was the starting point under Section 50 (which stops the clock on the time limit of 2 years). It was only after the Injuries Board issued the amended authorisation against the correct Defendant that the clock started as against the Defendant named in the Authorisation.

To conclude the case highlights the limitations of the Injuries Board  procedures which, while designed and heralded as a speedy and straight forward way of dealing with Personal Injury cases, have in some cases been found wanting.

Sean O’Riordan is a Partner with FitzGerald Solicitors practising in Civil and Personal Injury Litigation.  FitzGerald Solicitors are located at 6 Lapps Quay, Cork.

Please note that you should contact your Solicitor for specific legal advice tailored to your needs as each case is different and the foregoing article is not intended to provide legal advice.

*In contentious business, a Solicitor may not calculate fees as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.


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