Reduction in Damages not so welcome

Sinead Carroll

Responding to the article ‘Modest damages for minor personal injuries’ in yesterday’s Irish Legal News, Sinead Carroll of Cantillons stresses that more needs to be done to ensure victims receive a fair crack of the whip.

There has been recent commentary welcoming some recent decisions of the Court of Appeal.

These decisions cut the quantum of general damages in what are termed moderate soft tissue injuries involving neck and back (in the main). Undoubtedly, the Insurance Industry welcomes these decisions. The Insurance Industry carries out very effective lobbying for the reduction in damages. This is spun as if it is for the betterment of Society, but in reality is designed to see that profits are increased for the shareholders in the Insurance Companies. This, of course, is not a bad thing for the shareholders.

Who, however, I query, is lobbying on behalf of the victims? Those that were awarded the damages that have been cut, I am sure, do not “welcome” the reduction.

As lawyers, I think it is important for us to endeavour to vindicate the rights of those who are in a minority and are somewhat marginalised. There is no effective lobbying body in place for victims of torts. Each individual has to “paddle their own canoe” as it were. On the other side, you have a very well-oiled machine operating against the victims, seeking to keep as much money in their pocket, as opposed to the victims. I for one, do not welcome the cut in these awards and I hope it is not a trend that will continue.

I do however welcome the decision of Mr. Justice Cross in the case of Woods-v-Tyrell whereby he did an excellent analysis of the history of the cap on damages. He has decided that the cap on damages does not apply to cases where there is not also awarded significant special damages. That is indeed something to be welcomed.