A ten year old Galway boy was today awarded €11.5 million in the High Court, the highest ever personal injury settlement in the history of the state. But there’s more to the story than meets the eye.
€11.5 million?!! What the hell happened?
It’s a terribly tragic story to be honest. In 2008, Cullen Kennedy from Loughrea in Galway, then only a six-year old boy, was a passenger in the back seat of his mother’s car when it veered onto the wrong side of the road and collided head on with another vehicle coming in the opposite direction.
Cullen, who was restrained in a booster seat in the back, hit his head off the front windscreen and suffered awful injuries as a result. He is now a quadriplegic and can’t breathe without the help of a ventilator.
God, that’s terrible, was there anyone else hurt?
Yes, but not as severely as Cullen. His mother, who suffered a “momentary lapse in concentration” after being distracted by Cullen while driving him to school, suffered minor injuries, as did the driver of the other vehicle involved in the collision. The car Cullen’s mother was driving was uninsured at the time.
So what happened next?
Well, the cost of caring for Cullen is fairly substantial given that he requires the aid of nurses and special needs assistants, who provide care for Cullen on a daily basis, along with his mother and grandmother, Monica Kennedy. So the case went to court in an attempt to claim some financial assistance to help cater for Cullen’s present and future requirements.
It should be mentioned at this juncture that Cullen suffers from no mental impairment and continues to attend school. He was described in court as a “lively and vivacious student”.
Where does the €11.5 million come in?
That’s where the case becomes a little more complicated. According to a report in the Irish Times, Cullen, acting through his grandmother, brought a case against his own mother as well as the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).
A settlement was agreed and the MIBI will have to fork out €11.5 million to Cullen and his family as a result. That sum will help take care of the cost of the medical assistance Cullen will require for the rest of his life.
Wow, that’s a lot of dough? Are huge payouts like these common?
Not common enough, according to Ms Justice Irvine, who admitted that Cullen’s settlement was “excellent”, but also stressed the need for “urgent and prompt” action to deal with the laws providing periodic payments for victims of devastating injuries in similar cases to this one.
Irvine said that under the current legislation, the government are “gambling every day” on the welfare of victims of catastrophic injuries, who often run out of the finances required to maintain their wellbeing and in some cases, die as a result.
And what’s the solution?
The provision of an annual sum for injury victims that will be paid to them annually for the rest of their lives. That’s what was recommended to the Government by the Working Group on Periodic Payment Orders (PPOs) in October 2010, but has not been acted upon since.
Other things on the mind of Enda and company?
I suppose, but you would imagine that this is an issue that should take greater precedence than it does at the moment. Hopefully this case will prompt them into action.