Personal Injury Claims and the recent County Court Jurisdiction Changes

August 28, 2013

The long anticipated increase in the County Court Jurisdiction to £30,000.00 came into effect on 25 February 2013, together with a Pre-Action Protocol which is mirrored on the Pre-Action Protocol in the High Court. In addition, the publication of the Guidelines for the Assessment of General Damages in Personal Injury Cases in Northern Ireland (Fourth Edition) was published on 4th March 2013.

The effect of this will mean that the vast majority of personal injury claims will now be dealt with in the County Court. The impact this will have on the value of claims will be seen over the coming months. The new Guidelines (Fourth Edition) introduces bands for lower level injuries, depending on the period of recovery. For example, a minor back injury involving a strain or sprain where a full recovery was made in a fairly brief period of time previously attracted damages up to £15,000.00 in the old Guidelines, however, the new Guidelines has 3 bands with the lowest category attracting damages up to £4,000.00, where the recovery period is a few days or weeks or months.

The impact of the increase in jurisdiction will reduce the amount of claims listed in the High Court and if the Protocol is implemented, more claims should settle without the need for proceedings. The fact that the county court scale costs have been amended to reflect the increase in jurisdiction will mean that the vast majority of cases should be disposed of fairly quickly, as there is no delay in settling costs. The scale costs clearly sets out the costs due in the county court. The added benefit of the county court procedure is that where a case is not listed for hearing within 6 months the case will automatically be inserted into the Court List for Review by the Court Office with the aim of progressing to hearing as soon as possible.

It will undoubtedly take some time for all, including Insurers and the Courts to grasp the changes and implement these however, in the long run, it is hoped they will be beneficial to all and importantly, to those directly affected by the outcome of litigation.

This Article was produced by Mairead O’Boyle, Assistant Solicitor at Cleaver Fulton Rankin.

Please note: The content of this article is for information purposes only and further advice should be sought from a professional advisor before any action is taken.