Happy St. Patrick’s Day! At McCormick Law Office we seek fair and full compensation for our clients, who incur personal injury, mostly due to motor vehicle collisions or work accidents. While our law is based on the common law of England, a little research shows that the underlying principles harken from ancient Gaelic law, called Brehon Law dating from the 700s AD in Ireland.
Early Irish law required a wrongdoer to pay for physical injury he caused to another, whether intentional conduct or by accident. Payment was measured by the depth of the wound (as determined by the number of grains that would fit in the healed flesh; a higher status person was allowed to use a finer, smaller grain to measure) and the length of time it took to heal. In addition, the wrongdoer was required to pay the physician attending the wounded person. Interestingly, payment was determined by the physician after only nine days; it is unclear but this seems to be the time before which a wound would likely be considered fatal and a different criminal fine would be assessed. The prior practice of Sick Maintenance, where the wrongdoer would have to provide a substitute for the victim to replace the victim’s work was discarded in favor of payment for the loss.
In a reference to scheduled injuries in our modern worker’s compensation systems, Early Irish law recognized the physical locations of injuries to be important. Injuries to the “twelve doors of the soul” were considered particularly severe and cost more. In such cases the physician was entitled to a greater share of the fine–one half. Also, if the wound was one of “the seven principal bone-breakings,” or if it caused constant loss of bodily fluids, the physician received a greater fee. No mention is made of an attorney for the injured, perhaps the physician’s opinion was enough; until the wrongdoer was allowed to bring in his own physician (IME), then all heck probably broke loose, attorneys were employed, and here we are today.
Although most ancient cultures provided for some injury compensation, the Irish had a very detailed system that lives on today in our own American civil justice system. Perhaps explaining the excessive percentage of Irish heritage attorneys one sees, especially on St. Patrick’s Day.