Monday 18 March 2019

Judges can sort out crisis in compensation claims - report

Report: Mr Justice Kearns warns personal injury awards in Ireland are a multiple of those paid elsewhere. Picture: Arthur Carron
Report: Mr Justice Kearns warns personal injury awards in Ireland are a multiple of those paid elsewhere. Picture: Arthur Carron
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

A new report into the personal injuries claims crisis will recommend that judges compile new guidelines, which would help lower insurance premiums.

Guidelines would take account of the benchmarking of international award levels, according to the report by the Government's Personal Injuries Commission (PIC).

Former High Court president Nicholas Kearns warns personal injury awards in this country are a multiple of those paid in other states, and recommends judges compile new guidelines for lower awards.

The Personal Injuries Commission report is due to be published today, but a full copy of it has been obtained by the Irish Independent.

There have been calls for urgent implementation of the recommendations of the report by Mr Justice Kearns into the personal injuries claims crisis.

It represents one of the most serious attempts to sort out the compensation and the associated insurance crisis in decades.

Lower claims should lead to lower insurance premiums.

Mr Justice Kearns acknowledges that the crisis "calls for a response that is effective and achievable in the shortest possible time".

The Alliance for Insurance Reform, a lobby group made up of businesses and charities, said there was a sense of urgency in the Personal Injuries Commission report that was lacking from Junior Minister Michael D'Arcy, who is responsible for insurance, and the Government Cost of Insurance Working Group.

The Personal Injuries Commission report makes a number of recommendations:

* Judges should get together and compile new guidelines on appropriate compensation levels. The report says there is a need for a "rebalancing and recalibration of awards" in line with levels in other countries.

* Judges should take account of appeals court decisions that have lowered awards.

* No payouts should be made by insurers unless a medical report has been produced.

* Moving to a "care-not-cash" system would be incompatible with European law, and inappropriate in an Irish context. Such a system would involve injured people having their medical care paid for instead of getting a cash lump sum.

* Insurers should beef up their anti-fraud capacity.

Peter Boland, of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, said Mr Justice Kearns' endorsement of the Garda Insurance Fraud Unit and his recommendation that policyholders should get early notification of a claim meant it was "get-the-finger- out time" for Mr D'Arcy.

Irish Independent

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