Accepting the first offer of compensation?
At Lawyer.ie, we receive many enquiries from people who have been injured in an accident and are seeking advice on how to properly claim compensation. In many cases injured parties have already received an unsolicited offer of compensation from the liable party or their insurance company. Here is an outline of the potential pitfalls of accepting such offers.
Beware of strangers bearing gifts as the Trojans discovered too late! If you have been involved in an accident through no fault of your own, it is important that you follow recommended procedures outlined here – not least of which is ensuring your own medical well-being as a priority.
The liable party (i.e. the person or entity responsible for causing you injury) should also follow proper procedures and this generally involves them informing their insurance company of the details of the accident or potential of a claim against them.
It is with good reason that an insurance company likes to be informed early of an impending claim against their client as this gives them an opportunity to be proactive in attempting to minimize the amount of the claim award (or in other words to make a ‘lowball’ offer in the hope it will be accepted).
It is in their interest to attempt to settle an agreed amount with you before you take your case further (i.e. with a personal injury solicitor and/or Injuries Board where applicable). Very often an injured party may receive an unsolicited phone call or letter from the defending insurance company offering a compensatory deal subject to immediate acceptance within seven days and an agreement to waive any future claim against their client.
Don’t get mugged!
It is strongly advised that you do not accept any such offer of accident compensation without first getting advice from a Law Society of Ireland registered personal injury solicitor.
Across the water, the UK Law Society has been very vocal on this and has launched a media campaign with the tagline ‘Don’t get mugged by an insurer!’
In contrast the Law Society of Ireland have been fairly quiet on this issue (due in part perhaps to their conflicting mandates of acting both as a promoter of the solicitor profession and also its regulator).
The Injuries Board – a solicitor-free zone?
Into the vacuum has stepped the Injuries Board, a quango originally known as the Personal Injuries Assessment Board or PIAB which was set up in 2004. The Injuries Board claims on its website that ‘in the majority of cases it is not necessary to instruct a solicitor to pursue a personal injury claim on your behalf.’ Indeed its main stated function is to reduce costs of personal injury claims in Ireland which it was hoped would lead to lower insurance costs as well (ahem…whatever happened to that!!).
Ergo if both the Injuries Board and the insurance companies are motivated to reduce compensation payouts, who is on the side of the claimant? Well…your solicitor is!
A solicitor will assess everything about your case and is motivated (and paid) to work to your advantage to achieve the best possible outcome that the law will permit.
A good personal injury solcitor can;
● immediately assess if your claim has merit
● give an estimate of how long the process will take
● negotiate with the insurance company to revise upwards any offer
The Injuries Board cannot negotiate on your behalf and nor do they look at ‘the broader picture’ in terms of your entitlement to injury compensation.
The Injuries Board do provide compensation guidelines known as the Book of Quantum predicated on average amounts awarded for minor whiplash right up to serious head injuries and suchlike.
However a good personal injury solicitor can look at your case holistically and may where appropriate seek more compensation for adverse consequences such as;
● loss of earnings and potential loss of earnings
● loss of amenity (e.g. if you are keen piano-player and lose a finger, your award amount may be adjusted commensurately)
● pain and suffering including psychological injury
● medical expenses incurred to date (but also likely future expenses)