Lawyers are calling on the justice minister to ensure proper compensation for people who suffer severe, life-changing injuries in Northern Ireland.
The Department of Justice has launched a consultation on how large personal injury compensation payments should be calculated for people who have life-long care and support needs.
“It is absolutely critical that the Department of Justice gets this right,” said Belfast-based lawyer Oonagh McClure from not-for-profit campaign group the Association of Personal Injury Lawyers (APIL). “Otherwise the impact on people who have been injured through no fault of their own could be catastrophic.”
“Compensation is calculated to take into account the returns injured people might get when they invest their money, and to ensure they receive the right amount of compensation – no more, no less,” Ms McClure explained
“A deduction is applied, called the ‘discount rate’, to make sure people don’t make too much money on their investment. But when the discount rate is too high, as it is currently, the consequences for people with severe injuries can be dire,” she said. “People face running out of money. They must take bigger and bigger risks when investing their compensation to try to make the money last for the rest of their lives.
“These are people who perhaps cannot walk anymore, or babies with brain damage suffered at birth, or people who need help with basic daily tasks.”
“In its new consultation paper, the Department of Justice considers that injured people should take bigger risks when investing their compensation,” explained Ms McClure.
“This is wholly unfair. Compensation is the only lifeline for people who rely on it to pay for their care for life. Most of them will never again be able to work to earn more money. The compensation is all they will ever have. They don’t want to take risks, and should not be forced to do so,” said Ms McClure.
“Northern Ireland is already lagging behind the rest of the UK, with a rate which hasn’t changed for nearly 20 years and is far too high. Injured people are being undercompensated. The need for the minister to get this right is desperate and urgent,” she added.