Judges have voted to adopt new guidelines aimed at reducing general damages awards for some personal injuries, particularly minor injuries, and ensuring awards are proportionate to the injuries sustained. The majority of Judicial Council members, 146 of 168, participated in the virtual meeting on Saturday and 83 voted in favour, and 63 voted against the guidelines.The Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee’s draft guidelines are to replace the guidance in the Book of Quantum, which gives an approximate level of damages for injuries. While the courts will retain independence and discretion when awarding general damages, it will be mandatory for judges to assess damages having regard to the guidelines and they will have to specify, in judgments, their reasons for any departure from them.
The report states, “The catalogue now proposed is a list of injuries, ranging from the major to the minor, each of which has assigned to it a range or bracket within which an award should ordinarily fall.”
“In individual cases, where the facts are exceptional and warrant a departure from the guided bracket, the court may depart from the guided bracket, provided that a justification is given for doing so as set out in section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 (as amended).”
The Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, will bring proposals to Cabinet on how to implement the guidelines, to take effect once the Minister commences section 99 of the 2019 Judicial Council Act.
Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said the government is committed to bringing down the cost and increasing the availability of insurance, especially for businesses and voluntary groups. “We will now carefully consider what is set out in the new guidelines. We will have to see how they bed down over the next few months to see if any further action is needed,” he said.
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