Taking a civil case

An introduction to the issues and procedures involved in a civil case.
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Outline information

Civil cases usually involve private disputes between persons or organizations, such as, disputes involving accidents or breaches of contract . Before commencing proceedings in your civil case, a number of matters will arise such as instructing a solicitor and the issue of the cost of the case.

To commence proceedings, you must issue and serve a written court document called a writ or pleading.

Many cases do not get to court because they are settled in advance.

After the court case, if you are unhappy with the outcome, you can appeal the decision.

Types of civil claim

If you are taking a case, there are various types of civil claims that you may take to court.

Many civil claims are personal injuries claims that are brought as a result of road traffic accidents, accidents at work and slipping or tripping and falling in a shop, on a road or a public place. It is important to note that you cannot pursue a personal injuries action through the courts without first submitting your claim to the InjuriesBoard.ie process.

You may have a claim based on breach of contract or based on a neighbour’s interference with your enjoyment of your property – nuisance claims.

Another type of case is a claim for damages as a result of defamation, that is, when a person’s reputation is injured as a result of the publication by any means, orally or in writing, of untruths about the person.

You may have a claim in relation to ownership of land or you may require the court to sort out arrangements in respect of marital breakdown.

Which court?

Whether your case is heard in the District Court, the Circuit Court or the High Court will depend on the value of your case, that is, how much you claim the defendant should pay you.

If you have been injured in an accident, the value of your case will be assessed by your legal representatives by considering doctors’ reports about the nature and extent of your injuries and the prognosis for the future.

The District Court has power to award up to €15,000 in damages. The Circuit Court has power to award up to €75,000 in damages. The High Court has unlimited power to award damages.

It is important to note that, if your case is heard in Circuit Court and you are awarded less than €15,000 in damages or in the High Court and you are awarded less than €75,000 in damages, you may be penalised in costs.

This means that even though you have won your case, you may be obliged to pay the extra costs incurred by both sides by having the case heard in the higher court.

Time limits for actions

The time limits for commencing proceedings are legislated for in the Statute of Limitations 1957.

Under the Civil Liability & Courts Act 2004, a personal injuries claim must be commenced within 2 years.

A claim based on nuisance, that is, where a person has interfered with your enjoyment of your property, must be brought within 3 years of the nuisance.

A claim based on breach of contract must be brought within 6 years of the breach.

A claim based on defamation must be brought within 1 year of the publication.

Cases relating to land generally must be brought within 12 years.

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