The publication of the latest “Personal Injuries Guidelines” which was adopted by the Judicial Council on the 6th of March 2021 is a not simply a slap in the face of victims. It is more like an aggravated violent assault with sharpened knives.
I am surprised that any judge, let alone a council full of them, would put his or her name to some of the recommendations contained in that booklet. That there is no involvement of politicians and no public debate will mean that our judges rather than our public representatives will face the ire of victims and their families when the extent of this horror show for justice becomes evident. It will leave our judges rightfully carrying the can for putting their names to this contemptible document.
The Personal Injuries Guidelines contains valuation guidelines that will bind all judges in the country and the personal injuries assessment board when assessing the value of victims’ injuries.
It contains perversions such as the requirement that someone whose index finger is hacked off at the base should be compensated to the range of €25,000 to €35,000. So if you lose the proper use of your dominant right hand through your index finger being violently chopped off, the judicial paragons of our society consider that €30,000 is good and fair compensation. Our judges will ensure that a victim will receive less than an average earner’s annual wages for living the rest of her life without the most important finger of her more important hand. A lifetime of frustration from tying shoelaces to buttoning shirts, a life sentence of strange looks every time you shake hands or count out change. And then there’s the physical pain. But €30,000 is consider appropriate compensation by our judicial exemplars. A person can chop off another’s index finger, and the appropriate compensation is now to be €30,000.
But that is not all say the sycophantic judges – we can do better. These exemplars of justice have had a little conflab and consider that a person who is exposed to noxious substances in their employment such as asbestos or other toxins, who suffer moderate to severe asbestosis with impairment of their function and quality of life, people who have impaired mobility and quality of life, who’s respiratory disability will likely to be in the 10 – 30% range and who’s life expectancy will be slightly reduced are adequately compensated by the princely sum of €60,000.
If the victim is lucky enough and the asbestosis is mild (a condition that still prevents you breathing properly and shortens your life expectancy), then the awards meted out by our insightful judges can be reduced to €20,000. Fair compensation indeed say the judges. A lifetime of struggling to take a breath, a lifetime of being limited in exercising or taking a walk followed by dying younger than should be the case. All caused by deliberate or negligent failures by an employer who doesn’t fancy the expense of providing a safe workplace, and the sum of €20,000 is considered by our incomparable judges to be just and fair award.
But that is not the most toxic of our remarkable judicial council’s recommendations. The most poisonous of the directions made by the judicial council is the section on acquired brain injuries. A person can have their head smashed in sustaining a brain injury with a recovery that will allow the victim to participate to some extent in normal social and work life, but without full restoration of normal function, concentration or memory. This person is now to be considered fairly compensated with the princely sum of €60,000. If the person can return to a similar level of work, then the sage judges have decided they can even reduce the award down to €25,000. For a serious brain injury.
It appears that our judicial council has forgotten their role. It is the role of our judges to administer justice. Justice means appropriate compensation should be awarded to victims. It is not the role of our once independent judiciary to kowtow to insurance companies and fret about insurance costs. It is their role to throw out cases where the person is not genuinely injured. It is their role to ensure no fraudulent claims succeed before them. It should be their role to ensure that genuine cases with genuine injuries are appropriately compensated. The Personal Injuries Guidelines do none of this. It penalises victims.
The judicial council has forsaken its role as impartial arbiters of justice. Our society will be made all the poorer for the discarding of victims by our judges. The lure of cheap insurance and political kudos must have been enticing. The members of the judicial council have done the government’s dirty work and shall reap the reward. One thing I am sure of though, is that insurance premia will not fall. Profits for the shareholders in global insurance companies will rise. The steady onward march of insurance costs will not be halted by the self-debasement of our judges. Instead, our independent judiciary has besmirched itself and join the victims they have abandoned, besmirched in the trash heap.
If you have any queries regarding the personal injuries guidelines please contact us by phone at 061 501100, email Thomas Dowling, litigation partner at [email protected] or get a call back by completing our contact form so we can provide you with further information or advice.