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  • These types of cases exercise the minds of many Insurance Companies.  The Plaintiff claimant is involved in a very minor vehicle impact, but claims that he suffered personal injury. Naturally, the Defendant Insurance Company is very suspicious and launches a full Defence to the Plaintiff’s Claim.

    This is what occurred in the recent High Court Hearing of Philip Power Plaintiff and Elizabeth Walsh Defendant Record No: 2020/203P [2023] IEHC 398, where Mr. Justice Barr delivered Judgment on the 12th July 2023.

    Circumstances of Accident

    The Plaintiff’s vehicle, a 2008 model Mitsubishi Pajero jeep, was stationary in a line of traffic stopped at traffic lights, when it was impacted from the rear by the Defendant’s vehicle, which was a 2017 model Toyota Rav 4.

    The Plaintiff alleged that, as a result of the impact, he was caused to suffer a relatively minor soft tissue injury to his neck, for which he was treated by his GP on five occasions and received approximately 10 sessions of physiotherapy treatment.  He alleged that he suffered losses in sum of €990, made up of physiotherapy fees of approximately €800, together with GP medical fees and prescription fees.  The Defendant, while admitting that the impact occurred and that it was her fault, maintained that the level of impact between the vehicles was so minor that it was impossible for the Plaintiff to have suffered the alleged or any personal injuries, loss or damage.

    High Court Claim issued

    Curiously, Proceedings were issued in the High Court, where normally the Plaintiff must be confident that he will achieve compensation in excess of €60,000; otherwise, even though obtaining an award of Compensation, should that Compensation be less than €60,000 the Defendant can apply to the Court to award only the Costs of the jurisdiction of the relevant lower Court, (the District Court or the Circuit Court). There is also an option for the Defendant to apply to the Court for an Order against the Plaintiff for the extra costs incurred by the Defendant in contesting the case before the High Court, as opposed to the lower Courts of Jurisdiction, where the Costs would be less.

    Engineering Evidence

    No Engineering Evidence was called on behalf of the Plaintiff.  Mr. Tony Kelly, Consulting Engineer, specializing in the field of forensic collision investigation, gave evidence on behalf of the Defendant.  He had not however had the benefit of examining either vehicle and was relying on photographs.  The impact had been the towbar of the Plaintiff’s vehicle, but Mr. Kelly’s evidence was that this had merely caused a deflection of the front bumper of the Defendant’s vehicle and that the only apparent evidence to part of the Defendant’s vehicle that came into contact towbar was the unclipping of the grills and the popping of the screw from the number plate. His view was that contact between the vehicles was extremely light and he was surprised that the Plaintiff had sustained injury, bearing in mind that the Plaintiff’s Pajero vehicle was a reasonably heavy vehicle.

    The Medical Evidence

    A Medical Report of Dr. Simon O’Connell, the Plaintiff’s GP, was handed into Court.  Two Reports were delivered on behalf of the Defendant by Mr. Aidan Gleeson Consultant in Emergency Medicine but Mr. Gleeson also gave evidence in Court.  Mr. Gleeson was also surprised that the Plaintiff could have sustained the injury of which he complained, bearing in mind the minor damage to both vehicles.

    The Judge`s Decision

    The Judge accepted that this was a minor collision, and that the Plaintiff suffered a relatively minor tissue injury to his neck, with a brief onset of back pain and with sleep disturbance due to neck pain. He accepted the Plaintiff’s evidence that he continued to suffer pain for a period of approximately 18 months.  He appeared impressed by the fact that the Plaintiff, who worked in the construction industry, returned to work within 2 weeks and that there was no claim for loss of earnings.

    He preferred the evidence of the Plaintiff’s GP Dr. O’ Connell, as it was his medical practice which saw the Plaintiff in the critical period after the accident and also accepted that the Plaintiff was treated by the GP practice on four occasions in the four months post-accident and again reviewed the Plaintiff in September 2019. This was opposed to Mr. Gleeson’s evidence, where Mr. Gleeson had only seen the Plaintiff on two occasions, the first occasion being 2 years after the accident.

    Previous Court of Appeal Decision

    Mr. Justice Barr stated that, in dealing with an alleged minimal impact collision, the Court of Appeal in Dunphy-v- O’ Sullivan [2021] IECA 171, stated as follows at paragraph 38:

    Defendants’ insurers are naturally and properly vigilant about the potential for fraud in relatively minor rear end impacts.  Complaints of whiplash are easily made in the aftermath after such accidents.  Because such soft tissue injuries are highly subjective, it can be difficult to establish that what a Plaintiff says is not merely improbable, but downright fraudulent.  It is to be expected that such claims will be subjected to particular scrutiny. However, on the other side of the coin, a Plaintiff may suffer genuine injury in what appears at face value to be a dubiously slight impact.  Such a Plaintiff will undoubtedly be met with considerable scepticism by insurers, and perhaps from time to time by Judges too.  As here, a Plaintiff’s credibility will often be a central feature of the case and the courts will consider carefully any potential inconsistencies in the evidence”.

    Compensation awarded

    Whereas all Claims issued post April 2021 are now guided by the Personal Injury Guidelines (the PIGs), this case was guided by the earlier PIAB Book of Quantum.  The Judge noted that the appropriate damages for a minor soft tissue injury was subject to a maximum compensation award of €15,700. He awarded the Plaintiff General Damages in sum of €14,500 together with Special Damages of €990, giving an overall Award in favour of the Plaintiff of €15,490.


    As Judgment was delivered electronically, the Parties were given two weeks within which to furnish brief written submissions on the terms of the final Court Order and on Costs and on any matter that may arise.  The writer has not been able to find on the Courts.ie website any Decision made by the Judge on Costs but the writer suspects that the Defendant was preparing a detailed Submission on Costs!

    For further information on Accident / Personal Injury Claims you should contact:

    Brian Morgan
    Morgan McManus Solicitors

    Web: www.morganmcmanus.com
    Email: bmorgan@morganmcmanus.ie
    Ph. No.: 00353 47 51011

    Have you read our Guides:

    1. The 7 immediate Steps I must take if I`m involved in a Road Traffic Accident: Morgan-McManus-7-Steps-To-Take-After-a-Car-Accident.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)
    2. The 7 immediate Steps I must take if I have been involved in a Workplace Accident: 7-Steps-to-Take-After-a-Workplace-Accident.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)
    3. Do I need a Solicitor when filing a PIAB Personal Injury Claim?: Do-I-need-a-Solicitor-when-filing-a-PIAB-Personal-Injury-Claim-FINAL.pdf (morganmcmanus.com)

    *In contentious business a solicitor may not calculate fees or other charges as a percentage or proportion of any award or settlement.