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Practical changes to the initiation of a personal injuries claim

Section 8 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 sets out that the claimant must write a letter to an alleged wrongdoer putting them on notice of a potential claim for compensation for personal injuries. In this article we explain the resulting practical changes to the initiation of a personal injuries claim.

In brief

If a claimant fails to issue a section 8 letter to an alleged wrongdoer within one month of the date of an accident or date of knowledge, he or she may be penalised by way of costs at the hearing of his or her case.

Insurance companies should ensure that all policyholders are made aware of this provision and ensure that such letters are forwarded to them without delay so that they can commence their investigations before vital evidence, such as CCTV footage, is lost.

Section 8 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 imposes a requirement on a claimant to write a letter to an alleged wrongdoer putting them on notice of a potential claim for compensation for personal injuries. The reasoning behind this provision is to put an alleged wrongdoer on notice within adequate time of an alleged incident so that they have an opportunity to carry out adequate investigations before vital evidence is lost.

Until 28th January 2019, there was a requirement that this letter should issue within two months of the date of the accrual of a cause of action, or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter. Therefore, generally speaking, a letter of claim should have issued within two months of the date of an accident or the date on which an individual suffered or sustained injuries. Section 8 went on to state that where a letter had not issued in accordance with the section, a court would be entitled to draw inference from that failure “as may appear proper” and to apply a cost penalty on the claimant. However, the caveat of “or as soon as reasonably practicable thereafter” often allowed a claimant to escape penalty if they were in a position to put forward a reasonable explanation for the failure to issue this letter within the two month timeframe.

This provision has been tightened up recently with the amendment of the section, through section 13 of the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018, effective from 28th January 2019. From that date, the time for issuing the letter has been reduced from two months to one month. The phrase “as soon as reasonably practicable” has also been deleted. The section has also been amended to impose an obligation (by the insertion of the word “shall”) on the courts to draw such inferences as may appear proper for a claimant’s failure to do so and to impose costs penalties on a claimant.

The amendment of this provision is part of a suite of changes to the legislation governing personal injuries claims, designed to tighten up claims processes and assist respondents in defending claims.

If a claimant fails to issue a section 8 letter to an alleged wrongdoer within one month of the date of an accident or date of knowledge, he or she may be penalised by way of costs at the hearing of his or her case.

To Conclude

There is now a definite obligation on claimants to issue a letter to a proposed respondent setting out their intention to seek compensation within one month of either the cause of action accruing, or the date of their knowledge of the identity of the wrongdoer.

Insurance companies should ensure that all policyholders are made aware of this provision and ensure that such letters are forwarded to them without delay so that they can commence their investigations before vital evidence, such as CCTV footage, is lost.

2019-10-08T11:09:14+00:00October 8th, 2019|Publications|

About the Author:

Tríona Walsh is a Senior Associate Solicitor in our litigation department and joined the firm in 2005. Tríona specialises in defence insurance litigation which encompasses road traffic, employer’s liability, product […]

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