A woman has had her personal injury compensations award in relation to the whiplash injuries she sustained in a road traffic accident revised to €41,000 by the Court of Appeal.
The decision was made at a hearing this week to review that car accident compensation award of approximately €70,000 which received High Court Approval in December 2019. Following a hearing at the time Emma McKeown was awarded the damages due to the injuries she experienced in a road traffic accident that occured a number of years earlier.
The defendants in the case, Alan Crosby and Mary Vocella, opted to appeal the amount of compensation was approved at the High Court.
Having considered the details of the case Court of Appeal Judge Justice Seamus Noonan said that the amount of whiplash injury compensation that was awarded in the case was excessive. he said this despite referrer that he was of the opinion that Emma McKeown was honest and at no point in time sought to overstate the suffering that she endured.
Justice Noonan said: “Taking into account all the relevant factors to which I have referred in the context of the proportionality of the award in this case, I am satisfied that by any reasonable measure it cannot be viewed as proportionate. It is not proportionate when viewed against the measure of the maximum for the most serious injuries. The cost of (motor, public or employer’s liability) insurance is for most ordinary people and businesses, a significant outgoing. The extent to which awards by courts influence that cost is in recent times, a matter of widespread public discourse, debate and dispute.
In addition to this Justice Noonan spoke out against the fact that the levels of award can vary greatly depending on the trial judge assigned to hear each case. He said: “Whatever the reality may be, it is clear that awards made by the courts have an impact on society as a whole and the courts are mindful of that fact. Ultimately each member of society must bear the cost of a compensation system whether through the payment of insurance premia in the case of private defendants or taxes in the case of public defendants. Society thus has a direct interest in the level of awards. Frequently, the identity of the trial judge would not be known until moments before the case actually commenced, resulting in varying outcomes depending on the ‘draw’. It is clear that this has the potential for injustice. It cannot be fair to either plaintiff or defendant that the value of their case depends on the identity of the trial judge.”
Lastly Justice Noonon said that there should be no luck involved in the awarding of compensation settlements that can impact the insurance premiums of all people. He said: “Personal injury litigation should not be a lottery and plaintiffs and defendants alike are entitled to reasonable consistency and predictability. This is particularly important in the context of injuries which fall at the lower end of the spectrum as these constitute the vast bulk of cases, most commonly involving soft tissue, or ‘whiplash’ injuries.”