Since the introduction of the Personal Injuries Guidelines, people ask what is the value of a facial scar injury, and there is always debate over what reduction in compensation there should be where a driver or passenger fails to wear a seat belt. Both these questions were answered by Ms. Justice Marguerite Bolger in the High Court Decision of Amy Power Plaintiff -v- Ciaran Malone Defendant  IEHC 366 [Record No. 2021 6243 P]
Circumstances of Claim
The Plaintiff, some two weeks after she turned 18, was a front seat passenger in a motor vehicle when she was involved in a road traffic accident on the 15th April 2009. She was not wearing a seat belt. The Plaintiff`s head hit the top of the windscreen, where it connects to the roof and the Judge was satisfied that the Plaintiff’s injuries were significantly contributed to by her decision not to comply with her statutory obligation to wear a seat belt.
The Plaintiff’s Injuries
The plaintiff underwent surgery on her face, where she sustained deep abrasions at the right temple and anterior hairline and her right hand. An underlying EPB tendon at the back of her right hand was repaired. The Plaintiff’s physical appearance caused her considerable trauma in the immediate aftermath of the accident and for some time thereafter. She had started a beauty course in a local college, and, where this very much focused on physical appearance, she subsequently ceased this work and dropped out of her course. Ultimately, she returned to work in September 2020, but as a housekeeper in a local hotel. Ironically, during the course of her work due to the nature of her work as a hotel housekeeper she was not permitted to wear makeup at work and was required to keep her long hair tied back. This made her more conscious of how her scars appeared without makeup and people would regularly ask her about the scars.
Assessment of Damages
The Facial Scars are assessed under “Facial Disfigurement” in the Personal Injury Guidelines and are ranked from “Most severe scarring” (valued at between €80,000 – €200,000) down to “Minor scarring” (valued at between €500 – €7,000). The Judge noted the Plaintiff’s permanent scarring as her Dominant Injury. Noting that it came within the upper-range for serious facial scarring, the Judge measured damages at the highest level in that category at €60,000 (which is the third highest level category where the valuation is between €30,000-€60,000).
Noting the Plaintiff`s other injuries, being the visible scar on her right hand, back pain for a short period of time and headaches, together with an adjustment disorder, the Judge applied an uplift of €30,000 in respect of the Plaintiff’s non-dominant injuries.
Taking into account the Special Damages claim, the Judge awarded a total sum of €107,596.
Measuring Contributory Negligence
Repeating that she was satisfied that the defendant had established that the Plaintiff’s failure to wear a seatbelt contributed to her injuries, and noting that 25% is generally a high assessment of contributory negligence which was designed to reflect particular pain, the Judge took account of the fact that the Plaintiff was only two weeks after her 18th birthday. While she was an adult, the Judge believed it appropriate to reduce the high level of contribution down to 20%.
This meant therefore a reduction of €21, 517 in the overall Award of Damages, bringing the total award to a reduced sum of €86,076.80.
Despite the fact that many injuries have now reduced in value as a result of the enactment of the Personal Injuries Guidelines, it is generally acknowledged that the more serious injuries have retained their value and, in some instances, the Personal Injuries Guidelines have resulted in some higher valuations for injuries, than those previously valued under the PIAB Book of Quantum.
There is no doubt that scarring, and particularly facial disfigurement, still attracts Awards of high compensation.
Turning to the Contributory Negligence issue, Plaintiffs will sometimes claim that, had they worn their seatbelt, they might have been more seriously injured. This is never accepted by the Court and the Court will always reduce the compensation where it is proven that the failure to wear the seat belt contributed to the injury sustained.
For further information on Accident / Personal Injury Claims you should contact:
Morgan McManus Solicitors
- 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)
- 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)
- 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)
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