By Anna Scanlan, Litigation Department
A County Cavan woman was recently awarded over €5 million in compensation after suffering catastrophic injuries in a road traffic accident. The car in which she was travelling as a passenger struck a tree. She suffered serious brain damage and will require care for the rest of her life. On ruling the award on the 13th October 2010, Mr. Justice Quirke stated that this case once again highlighted the need for a system of staged payments in certain personal injuries cases.
Currently, damages in personal injuries are paid by way of a lump sum to the injured party, however in cases of catastrophic injuries the Court must endeavour to calculate the cost of future care based on the evidence of actuaries and medical experts. There is an element of guess work involved in this calculation and there is a risk that the plaintiff may end up with insufficient funds to cover the cost of their care later in life if that calculation is inadequate. Similarly, if for some reason the plaintiff dies earlier than expected there is no method for the defendant to recoup the surplus money paid.
In April of this year the President of the High Court, Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns set up a working group to consider whether such large awards in catastrophic injury cases should be paid by way of periodical payment orders throughout the injured party’s life in an effort to combat these difficulties. The group is currently engaged in a consultation process with various groups including the Law Reform Commission and the National Rehabilitation Hospital amongst others and is due to furnish a report by the end of November.
For further information contact Robert Kennedy or Anna Scanlan of our Defence Litigation Unit.