Legal advice for farmers: You may be entitled to claim if accident wasn’t your fault

Legal advice for farmers: You may be entitled to claim if accident wasn’t your fault

To bring a personal injury claim, consult a solicitor quickly, so that a letter of claim can be sent to the defendant or their insurer within one month of the accident.

When bringing a personal injury claim before the courts, the plaintiff has to establish the defendant was negligent, or that legal liability rests with the defendant.

A judge can make a costs order against the unsuccessful plaintiff, in any case, which is an order that the plaintiff has to pay the defendant’s costs.

A judge would be unlikely to make such an order unless they are of the view the claim was spurious or potentially fraudulent, rather than the claim failing on the grounds that negligence has not been established.

In a recent case at Ennis Circuit Court, the court dismissed a personal injury claim for a back injury by a woman against the County Clare Agricultural Society.

She claimed she suffered a back injury while opening a large door of a shed where ponies were kept.

The court found she gave misleading evidence. She stated that on the night of the incident she was unable to turn in bed and kept waking up with pain, but yet was able to attend her legal office the following day in relation to making the claim.

Last year, a woman who tried to process a bogus personal injury claim because she needed money was given a three-year suspended jail sentence.

Judge Codd, sitting in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court, said fraudulent claims lead to increased insurance costs, and there “must be a deterrent for offences of this nature”.

Judge Codd said it was a serious matter that impacted on people taking out insurance, by hiking up the cost of policies.

The possibility of making some extra money may be appealing, but if it is established a fraudulent personal injury claim has been brought, there are serious consequences, including potential criminal sanctions.

It is good news that the courts are starting to penalise people who bring bogus claims, or claims without merit, it acts as a deterrent which will allow the court to devote time to the hearing of genuine claims.

It is important to note that genuine claims are the vast majority of claims that are brought before the courts.

Injuries caused by accidents can range in severity from minor lacerations and sprains to broken bones, amputations, severe burns, and sometimes, sadly, even fatalities.

If the cause of an accident was not your fault, then you may be entitled to claim for damages for pain, suffering, and loss arising from personal injuries sustained, which are known as general damages, and any additional expenses incurred as a result of the accident, such as loss of earnings and medical expenses (known as special damages).

The step-by-step process to make a personal injury claim is as follows:

1. Make an appointment with a solicitor and they will guide you through the process of bringing a personal injury claim. It is imperative you do this as soon as possible. The first stage is the solicitor will send a letter of claim to the defendant/defendant insurer, and this should be done within one month of the date of accident, or there may be potential cost consequences at the conclusion of the matter.

2. The next stage is to make an application to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which is mandatory. In order to do this, you need to submit an application form and obtain a medical report setting out what your injuries are.

3. PIAB will acknowledge your application, and the respondent or their insurer (person who you are making a claim against) will then receive notification of your claim from the Injuries Board. They can then accept or reject the matter, proceeding to an assessment. There are other circumstances,such as if your injuries are predominately psychological, where the Injuries Board will not let the matter proceed to assessment.

If it does not proceed to assessment at any stage during the process, you are given what is known as an authorisation which allows you to bring court proceedings.

4. If it proceeds to an assessment, the Injuries Board will make an award (the value of your compensation) which has to be accepted by both sides in order to valid. The assessment process normally takes six months to a year. If either side rejects the Board’s award, you will receive an authorisation which allows you to bring court proceedings.

The time limit to bring a case under the statute of limitation is two years from the date of the accident, but the clock will stop when the matter is with PIAB (which is from date of acknowledgement to date of authorisation) but will run again six months after the date of the authorisation. It is advisable that you instruct a solicitor as soon as possible.

Karen Walsh, from a farming background, is a solicitor practising in Walsh & Partners, Solicitors, 17, South Mall, Cork (021-4270200), and author of ‘Farming and the Law’. Walsh & Partners also specialises in personal injury claims, conveyancing, probate and family law.

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