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Personal Injury Claims

Letter of claim in a personal injury action-time period shortened to 1 month

If you claim that somebody caused you an injury and you intend commencing personal injury proceedings against that person you, or your solicitor, must write a “letter before action” to that person. This obligation is set out in section 8 Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 as follows:

8.—(1) Where a plaintiff in a personal injuries action fails, without reasonable cause, to serve a notice in writing, before the expiration of 2 months from the date of the cause of action, or as soon as practicable thereafter, on the wrongdoer or alleged wrongdoer stating the nature of the wrong alleged to have been committed by him or her, the court hearing the action may—

(a) draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper, and

(b) where the interests of justice so require—

(i) make no order as to the payment of costs to the plaintiff, or

(ii) deduct such amount from the costs that would, but for this section, be payable to the plaintiff as it considers appropriate.

(2) In this section “date of the cause of action” means—

(a) the date of accrual of the cause of action, or

(b) the date of knowledge, as respects the cause of action concerned, of the person against whom the wrong was committed or alleged to have been committed,

whichever occurs later.

You will note that the obligation was to write the letter within 2 months of the accident, or the date of knowledge of the person against whom the wrong was committed.

Changes in 2019

In January 2019, however, a new piece of legislation, Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018, section 13 reduced this time period to one month. This section states

13. (1) In this section “Act of 2004” means the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 .

(2) Section 8(1) of the Act of 2004 is amended by:

(a) the substitution of “one month from the date of the cause of action,” for “2 months from the date of the cause of action, or as soon as practicable thereafter,”, and

(b) the substitution of “the court hearing the action shall” for “the court hearing the action may”.

(3) Section 14 of the Act of 2004 is amended by the insertion of the following subsection after subsection (4):

“(4A) Where there is a failure to comply with subsection (4), the court hearing the personal injuries action concerned shall—

(a) draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper, and

(b) where the interests of justice so require—

(i) make no order as to the payment of costs to the party responsible for the failure, or

(ii) deduct such amount from the costs that would, but for this subsection, be payable to the party responsible for the failure as it considers appropriate.”.

You will note from the above section that the Court “shall” draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper; the previous position was that the Court “may” draw such inferences-that is,

“draw such inferences from the failure as appear proper”.

Conclusion

The failure to send this letter before action within 1 month may lead to the plaintiff being penalised in respect of costs at the subsequent Court hearing.