Irish courts are dealing with more injury claims than ever
Ireland’s courts have reported a rise in personal injury claims, as more people than ever are not concluding their claims with the government body responsible for handling such cases but are continuing to have their cases heard by a court.
Since 2004, injury claims in Ireland have had to go through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board — a statutory organisation tasked with providing a low-cost, swift and easy way of making a personal injury claim. The fee for making a personal injury claim there is just €45. But, while all claimants must submit their claims to the PIAB to start with, they are not obliged to accept the PIAB award if they do not believe that it represents adequate compensation for the injuries that they have suffered, in which case they are entitled to to have their claim assessed by a court..
Now, the Courts Service of Ireland says the number of personal injury cases flowing through its system has taken a leap, rising by 15% in 2016. This rise has many worried, including the Government, which has repeated the warnings made by the UK Government of large amounts of compensation being absorbed by insurance companies, leading to higher premiums for policyholders. Premiums such as those for motor insurance are already sky high in the Republic of Ireland.
Million-Euro court payouts
It’s no wonder that some people seeking compensation for personal injury claims would rather head for the courts than the Injuries Board. There, the average award last year amounted to €24,305, while the total of awards made via the courts run in the tens of millions of euros in compensation.
The percentage of personal injury claims last year rose even higher, to 18%, at the High Court in Dublin, where unlike at Circuit or District Courts, there is no cap on the amount that can be awarded. Last year, one personal injury claimant won €9 million at the High Court.
Claimants who go through the Injuries Board with their claims are still entitled to take their case to court if they are not happy with an amount awarded to them. But the Government wants to clamp down on such cases making it to court at all, introducing revised legislation aimed at forcing all claimants to cooperate fully with the Injuries Board process in the first instance.
Once the bolstered law is in place, people making personal injury claims will be compelled to provide medical and other necessary reports to the Injuries Board. The body does not, however, deal with medical negligence. For those cases, claimants have to instruct their own solicitor and go to the courts.
Claimants will also be obliged to attend medical examinations organised by the Injuries Board. Those who fail to comply with the incoming rules may find themselves landed with the bill for defence costs in the case, or may not be able to recover costs in subsequent proceedings.
Also on the cards is a change in the way personal injury claims are calculated in Ireland, using a guide called the Book of Quantum that sets out compensation amounts based on the type of injury and its severity. The Book is set to be reviewed every three years, so that it is current and reflects what are considered by the Injuries Board to be adequate financial compensation amounts.
Despite the relatively straightforward procedure of making a claim at the Injuries Board — applications can be made online — many people still choose to appoint a solicitor to help in the procedure and to ensure they maximise their chances of success.
Enterprise Minister Frances Fitzgerald, who is also the country’s deputy prime minister, or Tánaiste, said the changes in personal injury law were aimed at slashing insurance premiums in the interests of the public.
“The objective of this Bill is to further strengthen the low-cost claims settlement model which the Personal Injuries Assessment Board provides. By encouraging more claims to be settled at an earlier stage, we can take many costs out of the settlement process,” she said.
“These savings should ultimately benefit the consumer through lower insurance costs.”