Legal Updates

 Litigation and Dispute ResolutionNovember 28, 2023

High Court refuses request to reject a formally accepted PIAB Assessment

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In C. (A Minor suing through his Mother and Next Friend) v An Unnamed Driver [2023] IEHC 651, the High Court approved a PIAB assessment of damages arising out of a road traffic accident. The court had been asked by the injured minor’s mother and next friend to disapprove the assessment on the basis the damages were too low, this being despite the fact that the assessment had been formally accepted on behalf of the injured minor.

Legislative Framework

Pursuant to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 (‘PIAB Act’), a necessary first step in a personal injuries claim is to make an application to PIAB for an assessment of damages. The assessment can only become legally binding if both the claimant and respondent have accepted the assessment. If either party rejects the assessment, the claimant will be authorised to bring legal proceedings before the courts. There are, however, cost implications for a claimant who does not accept a PIAB assessment and subsequently obtains a lower award from the courts. Pursuant to the PIAB Act, such a claimant is precluded from recouping the costs of the legal proceedings and may have to pay the other side’s costs.

In the case of a minor plaintiff, court approval is required before the acceptance of a PIAB assessment can become binding. In this case, the mother and next friend of the injured minor sought to avoid the potential adverse cost implications by accepting the PIAB assessment on behalf of the minor but asking the court to reject it. If the court did decide not to approve the assessment, any legal proceedings would be subject to ‘normal’ costs rules and the claimant would be shielded from the ‘special’ costs rules under the PIAB Act.

Injuries Suffered

The injured minor suffered multiple lacerations to his face as a result of a road traffic accident where the vehicle in which he was a rear seat passenger was in a collision with another vehicle. The injuries required treatment under general anaesthetic with a 3 day stay in hospital. The consultant surgeon opined that the minor would be left with permanent facial scars but their appearance should improve. A consultant psychiatrist reported that the minor experienced physical and psychiatric injuries, psychological distress and experienced post traumatic stress disorder. A later psychiatric assessment found that while the minor had residual anxiety, it was no longer at a level to fulfil the criteria for a clinical disorder.

Court Application

The court noted that when an application to approve an assessment comes before it, its function is to evaluate the adequacy of damages made by PIAB and this entails the court considering what the likely outcome would be if the claim were to proceed to full hearing before a trial judge and comparing that hypothetical outcome to the PIAB assessment. It noted that it undertakes this exercise with far more limited information than would be available to a trial judge but possibly with more information than PIAB will have had. For example, in this application, the judge had the benefit of viewing the facial scarring and considering the second, more up to date, psychiatric assessment.

Court Decision

General damages were assessed by PIAB at €60,000. Considering the dominant injury first, the High Court was of the view that it fell into the category of “serious scarring” under the Personal Injury Guidelines, with a range of €30,000 - €60,000. The court placed the present case in the mid-range of this bracket at approximately €45,000. In terms of the psychological injury, the court, in considering both reports, found that it would not reasonably be open to a trial judge to award damages of the basis of a PTSD diagnosis. It noted that the trial judge was likely to attach more significance to the second report indicting that the level of anxiety had reduced. The court considered that the injury fell within a category of “minor psychiatric damage” and the uplift could not reasonably be expected to attract more than €15,000, with it more likely to be in the region of €5,000 - €10,000. The court, therefore, held that the plaintiff was unlikely to achieve an award of general damages in excess of the €60,000 assessed by PIAB and it was in the minor’s best interests to accept the said assessment. The court made an ancillary order directing that the costs incurred by the next friend, on behalf of the applicant, in respect of the approval application be borne by the respondent.


The court made interesting observations on it’s role in an application to approve a PIAB assessment. The judgment shows that the court will weigh up any potential award in future court proceedings as against the assessment by PIAB and will approve an assessment if it deems it in the best interests of the minor, even if the applicant’s next friend believes it to be too low.

DISCLAIMER: This document is for information purposes only and does not purport to represent legal advice. If you have any queries or would like further information relating to any of the above matters, please refer to the contacts above or your usual contact in Dillon Eustace.

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