Thursday 13 December 2018

Judges should be trained in assessing damages in personal injuries cases, Government report recommends

Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

JUDGES should get training on how to assess damages in personal injuries cases, a new Government report on the cost of insurance recommends.

It comes as festivals and businesses say they are threatened with shut-downs over the soaring cost of cover.

The latest Cost of Insurance Working Report also found a tiny number of prosecutions for perjury here, despite a large number of fraudulent claims.

But it stopped short of calling for a new statutory law on perjury.

The latest report follows on from last year’s one on motor cover and concentrates on public liability and employer liability cover, which is needed by businesses, schools and sporting bodies.

And insurers come in for strong criticism particularly for settling claims without telling the policyholder.

Policyholders should be notified of claims against, according to the report from a group overseen by Minister for State in Finance Michael D’Arcy.

This comes as businesses have said that often the first they know about a claim is when their get a premium renewal notice that is a multiple of the previous one.

The report makes 20 recommendations, including a call for the Law Reform Commission to consider the need for a cap on personal injuries awards.

It states: "There is a significant issue in relation to the cost of personal injury awards in Ireland for some commonly occurring personal injuries, particularly those of a less severe nature."

A minor ankle injury can get an award of €54,700 in this country, compared with €12,550 in the UK.

The report states that the issue of inconsistency of awards by courts and the legal costs associated with the claims process needs to be considered further.

More training for the judiciary is called for in the report. It acknowledges that judges managed training themselves and says the upcoming Judicial Council Bill, as and when it becomes law, will further formalise the systems for judicial training.

"In the meantime the Working Group would suggest that the Minister for Justice and Equality, or his Department as appropriate, might raise in an appropriate manner with the judiciary that they would consider including specific and appropriate training or seminars in the assessment of damages in existing judicial training initiatives," the report states.

The report states that people making claims are required under law to submit a sworn affidavit in a set timeframe. They can be prosecuted under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 if the information in the affidavit is false. But this is not happening.

There is protocol in place where suspected fraudulent claims are reported to the gardaí from the courts.

The report states: "However, it appears not to have been used for quite a while."

And the report endorses the recommendation in the previous Working Group Report on Motor Insurance that there should be a fraud database.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform was disappointed with the report, saying it mainly consists of calls for more reports and analysis.

Peter Boland of the Alliance said Ireland remained a republic of opportunity for the insurance industry and the legal profession, with businesses and charities bled dry.

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