What is negligence and what steps should I take if I have been injured in an accident?

Legal advice for farmers
What is negligence and what steps should I take if I have been injured in an accident?

Proving that an accident or a negligent act or omission caused the injuries you have suffered is an important element of claiming for damages caused in an accident. Stock image. 

If you have been injured in an accident due to the fault of a third party, you may be entitled to claim for damages on the basis that the third party has been negligent. The most common type of accidents are car, workplace, or accidents in public places. The third party or potential wrongdoer owes you a duty of care to you and, if in their actions or omissions which caused the accident they have failed to meet that duty of care, they are likely to be deemed negligent. The law of negligence is complex and there are many other factors which can be considered when assessing whether a third party has been negligent.

You will also have to prove that the accident or the negligent act or omission caused the injuries you have suffered. The best way to prove causation is to use contemporaneous medical records, and you should obtain medical treatment immediately or within a couple of days of an accident occurring. If the injury does not result in a hospital admission, you should attend your GP.

If you have been involved in an accident which you believe was due to the fault of a third party, you should consult a solicitor as soon as possible, who will advise you on what steps you can potentially take.

The steps for potentially bringing a personal injury case are as follows:

1. Prepare and send a letter of claim to the appropriate defendants and to their insurer if you are aware of who the insurer is. The letter of claim sets out some details of the accident and holds the defendant responsible for the accident. The defendant or their insurer will then normally carry out investigations in respect of the accident, and may write to your solicitor looking for further information. You may need to instruct a consulting engineer at this stage to inspect the locus or where the accident occurred. Under legislation, it is possible to obtain a court order that the scene of the accident is preserved as much as possible, in order that accidents can be fully investigated.

2.Your solicitor will then instruct your treating medical expert to complete a report which will set out the injuries suffered as a result of the accident, which should give a prognosis as to when you are likely to recover from your injuries. Your solicitor will either instruct your GP or a specialist such as an orthopaedic surgeon, depending on the nature of your injuries

3. The next step is your solicitor would have to submit a claim to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. The Injuries Board have an option to assess a claim, which can take a number of months, and they make a decision as to whether they will offer an award or alternatively they will give authorisation to issue court proceedings. The Injuries Board do not accept certain claims such as psychological cases. You have the option to accept or reject the award offered

4. If you are given an authorisation, your solicitor will then issue court proceedings. The courts for bringing personal injury claims are the District, Circuit and High Court, depending on the level of damages. Damages normally consist of an award for pain, suffering and loss known as general damages, and you can also claim for quantified damages arising out of an accident which is known as special damages. Examples of this would be loss of earnings or medical expenses.

Under Irish Law, there is a limitation period, and you have two years to bring a case for personal injury to the courts. Once a claim is submitted to the Injuries Board, the limitation period stops, and it begins to run again once it leaves the Injuries Board. Accordingly, it is advisable you attend a solicitor within this period, or you will be statute barred from bringing a case.

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