They say time waits for nobody but exactly how long does one have to make a personal injury claim after an accident?
Dates are very important for Solicitors, particularly Solicitors acting in Personal Injury matters. We spend our days watching dates, counting dates, sometimes even dreading dates, all the time ensuring that our clients do not fall foul of the numerous deadlines and time limits which exist in personal injury proceedings. There are other type of dates which are important to solicitors as well but they would be more of a personal nature!
A recent case in point before the Supreme Court highlighted just how complex sometimes calculation of dates in personal injury proceedings can be.
The general rule in Irish Law is that somebody who is injured has two years from the date of their accident (or when they became aware of the fact that they had been injured in the accident) within which to issue proceedings. Very simple you say. But it is not. Not when the Injuries Board becomes involved.
The Injuries Board was set up under statute in 2003 coming into force in 2004 in respect of all personal injury proceedings taken in the State.
If you have an accident at work or a road traffic accident, or any type of accident anywhere within the Republic of Ireland, and you want to claim compensation for personal injury you must make an application to the Injuries Board. You do not have any choice.
In terms of the two year time limited mentioned earlier, the basic rule is that once you make your application to the Injuries Board that two year time limit stops running and does not start running again until six months after it comes out the other side of the Injuries Board. When it comes out the other side of the Injuries Board you are given what is called an “Authorisation“ which allows you to go to Court if necessary.
INJURY TIME: WHEN DOES THE CLOCK STOP?
The recent case before the Supreme Court Molloy v Reid concerned how to calculate that time. The Plaintiff, Mr Molloy had an accident in 2002 and issued proceedings in 2005 (at that time when you had three years to issue proceedings).
The issue that ran before the High Court and the Supreme Court was as to whether the six months’ time limit when the case came out of the Injuries Board stopped running when it issued the Authorisation did it stop on the day it was received (or deemed to have been received by him) in the post by Mr Molloy.
According to Mr Molloy’s solicitors it stopped on the day he received it and according to the Defendant Mr Reid’s Solicitors (or more accurately, Mr Reid’s insurers) it stops on the day the Authorisation issued from Injuries Board.
The difference between the two parties was one day! If the insurers were right, then Mr Molly’s time had run out and he would not be able to seek compensation for his injuries.
In the High Court, Mr Justice Ryan held that the relevant date was the date Mr Molloy received the Authorisation and consequently ruled in his favour.
This was appealed by Mr Reid’s Solicitors. Mr Molloy was again upheld in the Supreme Court and it was deemed that the six month time only started running when Mr Molloy would be deemed to have received an Authorisation even though the Authorisation was dated a day earlier.
The above is a very quick overview and simplified version of what happened in the High Court and Supreme Court and the hearing of this application regarding these time limits in Personal Injury actions.
It illustrates how important it is to ensure that all matters in Personal Injury actions are attended to in a timely matter.
There is little doubt but that the insurers for the Defendant, Mr Reid, felt that it was worth their while running an action before the High Court and the Supreme Court in terms of costs in order to try and save paying out on foot of a Personal Injury action to Mr Molloy.
This was also about setting a precedent for other matters which they are asked to pay out on.
Indeed, it is arguable in this case that Mr Molloy was lucky that there was only a one day difference between when the proceedings issued and when he states the period of time within which he could take proceedings, started running.
It is conceivable that if proceedings issued a day or maybe two days later, he would have been in danger of being statute barred (i.e. too late to take a claim) and would not have been able to seek compensation against the party who injured him.
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