The McCarthy & Co. Solicitors blog provides useful updates, information and advice on medical negligence and personal injury cases and related legal matters. The blog also provides updates on nationwide medical negligence cases. As a team of nationwide medical negligence and personal injury solicitors based in Dublin and Cork, McCarthy &Co. Solicitors can provide you with expert advice and assistance.
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In July of this year, the Government announced that, as part of the stimulus package, there would be an increase in the amount of relief that first time buyers may obtain on purchasing or self-building a newly constructed dwelling house under the Help to Buy Scheme. Under this scheme, the maximum relief available has been […] The post Help To Buy Scheme – What You Need To Know appeared first on McCarthy +...
In July of this year, the Government announced that, as part of the stimulus package, there would be an increase in the amount of relief that first time buyers may obtain on purchasing or self-building a newly constructed dwelling house under the Help to Buy Scheme.
Under this scheme, the maximum relief available has been temporarily increased from €20,000 or 5% of the property value to €30,000 or 10% of the property value between now and 31 December 2020.
For those looking to get on the property ladder, this is a very valuable relief and is only available for a limited period. Due to this we have been receiving a lot of enquiries about how it all works so we have now selected some of the most frequently asked questions and answered them below for your reference:
1. What is the Help to Buy incentive?
Basically the name gives it away; it’s a government tax refund scheme, which was enacted in order to help purchasers get the deposit for their home. It also incentivizes developers to build new homes so that the scheme can keep running.
Many people will have heard about Help to Buy given its prevalence in the news, when the July stimulus package offered by the government extended the scheme as and from the 23rd July this year. Before the July stimulus package, you could avail of Help to Buy when certain satisfying criteria were met. You could avail of the lesser of a €20,000 rebate, five percent of the value of the property or the amount of income tax or deposit interest retention tax you paid in the previous four years.
The criteria are quite strict in that the property must be your home and your principle private residence, but the benefit of it is that you will get money back from tax you have paid over the previous four years.
2. Who is eligible for Help to Buy and what type of property qualifies for the scheme?
The eligibility criteria are specific to both the person and the property. To become eligible, you must first and foremost be a first-time buyer – that’s key to it. Secondly, as mentioned, the property must be your home – your principle private residence.
You must buy and build your property between the 19th July 2016 and the 31st December 2021. The claimant must live in the property for five years after getting the rebate and you must be tax compliant. If any of those criteria aren’t met, the applicant will be unsuccessful.
To qualify, you can’t have previously owned a property, as explained above. If you did, you are automatically excluded. If you’re buying or building as a couple, both applicants have to be first-time buyers. Some people have queries regarding the inheritance of a property in the last number of years and that doesn’t automatically preclude you, because you wouldn’t have been the first-time buyer in that instance. Another query we see coming in is if you’re a first-time buyer and you’re required to have a guarantor on your loan and that guarantor isn’t a first-time buyer, again you’re not automatically precluded from applying.
When it comes to eligibility criteria for the property, the house in question needs to be your home, it must be built subject to VAT and it can’t be used for any other reason other than a residence. The legislation is very strict when it comes to defining what is a residential property. If it’s a refurb or you’re doing renovations to a property, that won’t satisfy the criteria. To qualify for the Help to Buy scheme, it has to be a new build or a self-build.
So while you as an individual may qualify for the scheme, the property you are looking to buy may not, so there are numerous steps just to tick the box.
3. What is the purchase value?
It’s a rebate, so you’re not going to get money for nothing – you have to be tax compliant, meaning you’ll have to have made your tax returns for the previous four years. Revenue won’t even entertain a claim unless all your tax affairs are in order. The rebates that are available to you are based on what is called the ‘purchase value’. It’s quite straightforward for a new build; the purchase value is going to be your contract price, which is the price that you’re told by the contractor you have to pay. For a self-build, it’s a little different in that the purchase value is going to be the approved valuation you get when you apply for your mortgage from the bank. You must take out your mortgage with an approved lending institution and the criteria is very specific. For example, the loan you take out can’t be used for any other purpose other than that of building your home. Also, the loan must be a minimum of 70 percent of the completion value and this is known as the ‘loan to value’ ratio. Let’s say the purchase value of the house you built was €450,000, your loan would have to be a minimum of €315,000. It is more straightforward for a new build because the contract price is on your contract for sale, but when it comes to ‘loan to value’, that’s what purchase value then means.
4. How much can you claim?
The most important bit! If you sign a contract for sale or if you drew down the first-stage payment of your mortgage between the 19th July 2016 or the 22nd July 2020 – the date prior to when the enhanced Help to Buy scheme came into effect – you can claim the lesser of the following: €20,000, five percent of the purchase value, or the amount of income tax or deposit interest retention tax you’ve paid in the previous four years. That’s from the 19th July 2016 to the 22nd July 2020 as mentioned or after the 1st January 2021, because this enhanced scheme will be operational between the 22nd July 2020 to the 31st December 2020 and then it ends. There is talk that the government might extend this scheme, but who knows? For now, we’re giving these timeframes to act in between.
If you draw down between the 23rd July this year and the 31st December, you can avail of the higher rates. These will see a jump from five percent to 10 percent of the purchase value and it goes from €20,000 to €30,000, so it’s quite a substantial increase, but it’s only if you sign a contract for sale or draw down the first-stage payment of your mortgage within that strict time period. Unfortunately, if you applied for a drawdown of funds on the 22nd July, you’re not going to avail of the advanced Help to Buy scheme – you could lose out on €10,000 when there might only be 24 hours in the difference, but there has to be a cut-off point.
5. If you have already submitted an application under the old rate are you entitled to the new rate?
You are, under the assumption that your contract has or will be signed between 23rd of July and 31st of December this year. You simply need to cancel your application and resubmit it. Revenue are moving quite quickly in the sense that they are processing the applications and the claimants will be able to see that they have been approved for the higher rate almost overnight. So ‘yes’ is the short answer; it’s just a matter of cancelling and reapplying.
6. How will the refund be paid?
Again, it’s to do with time scale. If you bought or built the property between the 19th July and 31st December 2016, the refund was paid directly to the claimant. If you bought or built after the 1st January 2017, it gets paid to the qualifying contractor, who is basically the developer.
I know I’m sidetracking a little bit, but for anyone thinking of applying for it, it’s important to note that not every contractor can avail of this scheme – it has to be a qualifying contractor. You can log on to the Revenue website and you’ll find a list of these qualifying contractors, so if you’re looking to buy or build, it’s important to make sure that you’re not going to lose out on the scheme if the contractor building the property is not registered. If it’s a self-build (built after the 1st January 2017) the refund gets paid directly into your bank account.
We, as solicitors, also need to be registered with Revenue in the case of self builds because we will be verifying the claimant’s application. Essentially what that means is we will be telling Revenue that ‘Yes, they drew down on the 1st August 2020’, so if you’re applying for the Help to Buy scheme make sure that the solicitor you are employing is registered – which we are!
7. How do you work out the rate on a self-build home?
Again, that comes back to the loan to value ratio. It’s the purchase value, which is approved by the bank. The bank will give you that valuation and as I mentioned already, your loan has to be a minimum of 70 percent of the purchase value.
8. When does the HTB end?
The original Help to Buy scheme with the lower rates is in effect until December 2021. The enhanced Help to Buy scheme is from 23rd July 2020 to 31st December 2020, so if you want to avail of the higher rate, all contracts must be signed or your first-stage payment draw down must occur by the 31st December 2020. If you draw down on the 1st January 2021, you’re not going to lose out completely; you just revert back to the original Help to Buy scheme, which is five percent of the purchase value or €20,000.
9. What do you need to do before you apply?
Most importantly, make sure all your tax affairs are in order. If you’re applying as a couple, you both have to be tax compliant. The application is done through Revenue, so you need to log on to www.revenue.ie. There are different applications for PAYE and self-employed. If you’re PAYE, you go to the myAccount section and if you’re self-employed you apply through ROS – the Revenue Online System. The application stage is basically an inputting exercise where you must input details such as your PPS number. Once you’ve submitted the application, you’ll get a six-digit application number that you really need to retain carefully, because those access codes are passed either to the contractor in the case of new builds or the solicitor in the case of self-builds. It’s all a verifying process; I would need that number for my client in order to verify their claim.
The claim stage only comes into effect once the contract has been signed, so you upload a copy of your contract for sale onto Revenue through myAccount or you provide proof that you’ve applied for your first-stage payment draw down. Once again, this all needs to be verified by your contractor or solicitor. If anyone is thinking of applying at the moment, the process is slow because they’re issuing the passwords by post, so it might be important to keep this in mind if you want to avail of the enhanced Help to Buy. Time passes quickly so it would be a good idea just to get the application set up. It can sit there until you’re ready to sign contracts or draw down, but as long as that application stage is done you’re on the front foot.
10. Can Revenue clawback refund?
Yes, unfortunately! If, for some reason, you weren’t actually entitled to the refund, Revenue can come back and claim it. The rates of refund are outlined on the Revenue website and that is one of the conditions. As I previously mentioned, one of the qualifying criteria is that you live in the property for five years. If you vacate the property within anything less than that five-year period, they can come back and claw back the rebate. If you didn’t proceed to purchase the property they can come back for a refund or if you didn’t finish building the property, again they can claim it back. If the property isn’t built within two years after the time you get the rebate, the Revenue can claw it back.
An important note from McCarthy and Co. Solicitors:
The subject of fees is a very important issue to touch on. It’s the bottom line, what we want to know. We have a tool called the Conveyancing Calculator on our website, which is available here. A lot of the time there is a grey area around legal fees and ‘hidden costs’ when you’re looking for a self-build, a sale or a purchase, so we offer a full breakdown of costs that will show you your VAT, your stamp duty and basically any associated outlay involved. If you’re querying what such fees might amount to, this is a very accessible tool that might be a big help.
While it is back to school time, it is also back to court time this month. Usually, the superior courts do not sit in August and September, but this year the High Court has resumed sitting from 1 September and this is a very positive development. As well as sitting this month, the High Court […] The post Back to School (and to Court) appeared first on McCarthy +...
While it is back to school time, it is also back to court time this month. Usually, the superior courts do not sit in August and September, but this year the High Court has resumed sitting from 1 September and this is a very positive development.
As well as sitting this month, the High Court also returns to what is hoped to be close to full-time duties this month, which means we expect to see personal injury and medical negligence trials resume in earnest. These types of cases had been put on hold during the lockdown period because they involve multiple parties and witnesses being physically present in court to give evidence etc.
The fact that personal injury and medical negligence matters are now moving again is now unreservedly good news for people who have been waiting to have their cases dealt with; justice delayed is justice denied.
It is also hoped that much of the work of the High Court will be able to be carried out remotely from October and in this context, we hope that this will be an opportunity for the recently introduced Statements of Truth to come into their own in practice.
As part of getting High Court personal injury and medical negligence trials moving again, we now have a new Practice Direction from the Court which provides that solicitors acting for parties in court proceedings will have to:
So, if we are acting for you in any proceedings coming before the courts for the foreseeable future, you might note that will have to obtain and retain this information and consent and you might bear with us while we do so. Thanks in anticipation for your co-operation.
This is just another aspect of the new reality which we find part of our lives as we work our way through this pandemic; but as with getting our kids back to school, if it also allows us to get our clients’ important personal injury and medical negligence matters moving through the courts again, it seems well worth it.
The statements of truth are available for use in law in Ireland. The Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 was signed into law by the President on 6 August. On 15 August the Minister signed the relevant Commencement Order, which you can see here. Statements of truth are contained in Part 3 of the Act, […] The post We Have Statements of Truth! appeared first on McCarthy +...
The statements of truth are available for use in law in Ireland.
The Civil Law and Criminal Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2020 was signed into law by the President on 6 August.
On 15 August the Minister signed the relevant Commencement Order, which you can see here.
Statements of truth are contained in Part 3 of the Act, which pursuant to the Commencement Order, comes into force on 21 August; which would be today! *punchesfist*
Now (before you get all excited!) if we take a look at the section in a little bit more detail, you will see that there is a catch.
Pursuant to Section 21(1) statements of truth can only be used in connection with documents that may be lodged or filed electronically.
And, as far as I understand things as they currently stand, that would amount to approximately zero documents.
So we have statements of truth now, we just can’t use them for anything.
Therefore, as I write, this does appear to be a deliciously Irish approach in terms of short term emergency measures to tackle a global pandemic.
Seriously though, I sincerely hope that the swiftness with which we have seen the introduction of statements of truth will be followed equally swiftly by the widespread introduction of electronic filing of all documentation in all Courts.
If that were to happen, this has the potential to be transformative.
However, if that requires a multitude of other things to be done and major investment in IT in our Courts Service to happen before this becomes a reality, I’m afraid I wouldn’t hold my breath.
We shall see…
I am somewhat encouraged by the President of the Law Society’s Bulletin on 20 August which indicates that another miscellaneous provisions measure is planned in the relatively near future, I just don’t know why they couldn’t have made statements of truth available for general use when they were introducing them at all in the first place.
And, of course, apart from affidavits in Court proceedings, we need statements of truth to be available for use in place of affidavits and statutory declarations in all matters and transactions and, given that statements of truth now have force of law, I can’t think of any good reason why they are not available for immediate use in all such instances.
So, we have progress, but the campaign for the widespread availability of statements of truth in practice continues.
The Court of Appeal decision in Emma McKeown v. Alan Crosby and Mary Vocella  IECA 242 is one that all personal injuries claimants and their advisors should study carefully. You can see a copy of the full text of the decision here. At its most straightforward, the case involved a claim for personal injuries […] The post Court of Appeal Decision Confirms Importance of Book of Quantum in Assessing Personal Injury Claims appeared first on McCarthy +...
The Court of Appeal decision in Emma McKeown v. Alan Crosby and Mary Vocella  IECA 242 is one that all personal injuries claimants and their advisors should study carefully. You can see a copy of the full text of the decision here.
At its most straightforward, the case involved a claim for personal injuries brought by a lady, aged 30 at the time of the accident, who was driving her vehicle and was turning right into the entrance of a house when the a jeep coming from behind her went to overtake her and collided with her vehicle. The impact was described as significant and caused damage to the lady’s vehicle which cost approximately €3,000 to repair but the Court noted that the airbags in her vehicle had not deployed.
At the time of the accident the plaintiff was working as a care assistant. The injuries that she suffered were soft tissue injuries to her shoulder, arm and back for which she was prescribed appropriate medication and advised to carry out exercises and to attend physiotherapy. She was out of work for 6 weeks following the accident and was subsequently made redundant. She acquired alternative employment shortly after this and continued in employment throughout.
In the High Court, O’Hanlon J. found the plaintiff to be an honest and credible witness who did not exaggerate her injuries and who had done all she could to mitigate her loss. The trial judge seemed particularly impressed by the lady’s efforts to continue working and by the fact that she did not lie down under her injuries. On this basis the High Court awarded her €70,000 for general damages, made up of €65,000 for pain and suffering to the date of the trial and €5,000 for pain and suffering into the future.
The medical history is considered in detail in the appeal judgment with the judgment having been delivered by Noonan J. and concurred with by Whelan and Power JJ. In essence, the Court identified that the plaintiff had suffered two distinct injuries, one to her lower back and one to her neck and shoulder. The Court found that the lower back injury was in the moderate category and that the neck and shoulder injuries were in the lowest category of minor.
The Court found therefore that the correct figure for pain and suffering to date for the lower back injury was €25,000 and then made a further allowance of €5,000 to take account of the neck and shoulder injuries so that general damages to date amounted to €30,000. The Court allowed the sum of €5,000 in respect of pain and suffering into the future which it felt, based on the medical evidence, were likely to be of a very minor order.
So, at its most straightforward, this appeal involved the very significant reduction of a High Court award for personal injuries in the amount of €70,000 to the sum of €35,000 by the Court of Appeal. But what is most significant about this case, and why it is particularly worthy of study by personal injuries claimants and their representatives is how the Court of Appeal arrived at this decision.
The Court placed the Book of Quantum, which is published by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, at the centre of its considerations in arriving at the final award that it felt was appropriate in the circumstances of the case.
The Book of Quantum has been published since 2004 and was most recently updated in 2016. The courts are obliged to have regard to the values contained in the Book of Quantum pursuant to section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004. However, as a matter of practice up to now, the Book of Quantum has seldom been referred to by either lawyers or judges in personal injuries litigation before the courts. Indeed, where the Book of Quantum has been mentioned in court decisions heretofore, it has tended to be in the context of noting that it is not suited to complex cases.
Indeed, the Court of Appeal in this case confirmed the view that: “[i]n complex cases with multiple injuries, [the Book of Quantum] may be of little or no assistance and there are many injuries it does not capture at all, for example scarring and psychiatric/psychological injury.”
However, in this case the Court of Appeal also stated that: “[i]t does of course remain the case that the Book of Quantum is most suited to relatively straightforward cases where the injury falls more clearly into one or more of the defined categories.”
And the Court went on to find that: “in cases where the Book of Quantum is clearly relevant, it would assist the court’s considerations to hear submissions from the parties about how it should be applied, or perhaps whether it should be applied at all. Recent judgments of this court, such as Nolan v Wirenski, have drawn attention to the fact that it is important for trial judges to explain how particular figures for damages are arrived at, since otherwise the appellate court is left in the dark about the trial judge’s approach and whether it ought to be regarded as correct or not. The review process on appeal would be greatly assisted by reference to the categorisation and severity of the injury provided for in the Book of Quantum, assuming that to be feasible. If on the other hand the trial judge considers that the Book has no role to play in the particular circumstances of the case, it would be very helpful for the appellate court to know why that is so.”
The Court found that the injuries in this case were reasonably defined in terms of categorisation, severity and duration. In fact, at the outset of the judgment, Noonan J. states quite plainly that this was a relatively simple and straightforward personal injuries claim which had no real complicating factors. The injuries suffered by the plaintiff were typical soft tissue injuries of a kind frequently seen in the aftermath of a relatively minor road traffic accident.
As such, the Court found that this was a case in which the Book of Quantum had a clear role to play and went on to analyse the injuries suffered by the plaintiff in this case by reference to the factors set out in the book as follows.
Section 3 of the Book of Quantum deals with back injuries and spinal fractures. It differentiates between five categories of injury: minor – substantially recovered; minor – a full recovery expected; moderate; moderately severe; and finally, severe and permanent. A range of damages up to a maximum is identified in each case.
The Court then examined the minor, moderately and moderately severe categories as defined in the Book of Quantum and found that while there was an argument for suggesting that the plaintiff’s back injury fell into the minor category or, at best, between minor and moderate, in deference to the findings of the trial judge in the High Court that she had suffered a significant loss of amenity as a result of having to change jobs, the Court of Appeal classified the back injury as within the moderate category. The range of compensation prescribed by the Book of Quantum for the moderate category is from €21,400 to €34,000.
As regards the plaintiff’s neck and shoulder injuries, the Court of Appeal found that those fell into the lowest category of minor-substantially recovered, where the suggested maximum is €14,800.
The Court of Appeal stated that, as the Book of Quantum itself recognises, where the injuries fall into more than one category, it is not appropriate to simply add up the totals but rather to carry out an adjustment to the overall award to fairly reflect the effect of all the injuries on the person suffering them.
Finally, on a separate note, it is worth paying close attention to the fact the Court of Appeal formed the view that the primary medical evidence relied upon by the claimant in this case was provided by a doctor whose involvement appeared to have been arranged by the plaintiff’s solicitors and who had had no involvement in the plaintiff’s clinical care. The Court found that none of the medical reports relied upon gave details of any treatment afforded by that doctor to the plaintiff and therefore assumed that the claimant saw that doctor for medico-legal purposes only. This is not the first occasion on which judges have signalled unease at relying upon medical professionals who have not been directly involved in the treatment of the injured party being relied upon as expert witnesses.
The decision in McKeown v. Crosby shows a clear willingness on the part of the Court of Appeal to significantly reduce an award of the High Court which is considered to be excessive and is presumably, in part at least, in response to the campaign of reform which has been vociferously waged by the insurance industry over the last number of years.
The post Court of Appeal Decision Confirms Importance of Book of Quantum in Assessing Personal Injury Claims appeared first on McCarthy + Co.
If you or anyone you know is a first-time buyer who is looking to get on the property ladder they should be aware that there was a very important announcement in the July stimulus package announced by the Government which increased the amount of relief that first-time buyers may obtain on purchasing or self-building a […] The post The “Help to Buy Scheme’ Explained appeared first on McCarthy +...
If you or anyone you know is a first-time buyer who is looking to get on the property ladder they should be aware that there was a very important announcement in the July stimulus package announced by the Government which increased the amount of relief that first-time buyers may obtain on purchasing or self-building a newly constructed dwellinghouse under the Help to Buy Scheme.
In summary, under the July Jobs Stimulus package, the maximum relief available on the Help to Buy Scheme has been temporarily increased from €20,000 or 5% of the property value to €30,000 or 10% of the property value between now and 31 December 2020.
This is a very valuable relief for first-time buyers or builders and is only available for a limited period.
I’ve just given you a very rough outline of it above, but there’s a lot more too it and it’s something we’re getting a ton of questions on.
So, if this is something of interest to you or someone you know, I’ve some great news for you:-
Our conveyancing and probate specialist solicitor Cliodhna O’Regan and Catherine Tobin on our team have just completed our first Facebook Live on this important topic yesterday evening. It’s an excellent and really innovative initiative by these two mighty women which will be extremely beneficial for anyone who has an interest in this area.
I hope you find it useful and if you know of anyone else who might be interested, please forward the link in this email to them to be able to view it themselves.
Of course if you or anyone you know has any queries in this area, please just get in touch with our team by calling 023 8880088 or just hit reply and we will connect you with Cliodhna who will be able to go through any specific queries you may have directly.
We were on staycation recently and visited family in North East Antrim and Donegal. (I know, I know, strictly speaking staycation means you don’t leave your home, but that’s what everyone’s calling it this year in the weird world that the pandemic has dropped us into, so the pedants will just have to suck it […] The post Derry – In Memory of John Hume appeared first on McCarthy +...
We were on staycation recently and visited family in North East Antrim and Donegal. (I know, I know, strictly speaking staycation means you don’t leave your home, but that’s what everyone’s calling it this year in the weird world that the pandemic has dropped us into, so the pedants will just have to suck it up.)
In between we spent a couple of nights in Derry, you can see us in the attached image at Free Derry Corner.
In the background to that photo is a piece of a mural featuring a boy in a gas mask. The boy was Paddy Coyle and as it happened he died the week that we were in Derry in July. He was 13 at the time the photo that the mural is based on was taken in 1969.
We had 11, 14, 15, 17 and 18-year-olds in our group and to see and hear how the events of that time impacted on young people their own age was eye-opening, to say the least.
Of course, since we came home from Derry we have seen the sad passing of another iconic Derry figure, the great Irish leader, John Hume, who was buried this week. I thought that I couldn’t let the week pass without mentioning it.
Hume was an immense figure, something that was particularly highlighted by the humility of his funeral arrangements this week in the context of the pandemic. It has been said by many, but in terms of Irish history, I believe he will be seen to rank with O’Connell and Parnell.
John Hume was a man of peace and peace has been central to his legacy. But while he was devoted to non-violence, what drove him into action was injustice.
We are lucky to live in peace and to have ready access to justice. We should take neither for granted.
To visit Derry and learn about the social, economic and political injustice of that time is a journey well worth making.
If you’re looking for somewhere to go that doesn’t involve foreign travel this year; you could do a lot worse than Derry. Apart from the compelling history it’s probably one of the friendliest places I’ve ever been; the people really are splendid! We stayed in the Shipquay Hotel which is inside the historic walls of Derry.
If you do go there I can’t recommend Gleann Doherty’s Derry Guided Tours highly enough.
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