Thursday 18 July 2019

Government accused of watering down key measure to tackle insurance crisis

Business Minister Heather Humphreys has bill to give more power to injuries board
Business Minister Heather Humphreys has bill to give more power to injuries board

Charlie Weston Personal Finance Editor

A GROUP that lobbies for insurance reform has accused the Government of watering down legislative changes to stop claimants sidestepping the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

Some claimants try to avoid the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) process to get their cases heard in court where payouts tend to be higher.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform claimed planned changes to PIAB laws to encourage people to have more claims settled through the State body have been "neutered".

Business Minister Heather Humphreys has published a new bill with the aim of strengthening the PIAB.

The State body assesses injury claims, with the aim of resolving them faster and more cheaply than the courts.

It generally does not pay legal fees.

The new bill is an attempt to stop claimants bypassing the PIAB to get their cases into court. They do this by failing to attend medicals, or failing to provide loss of earnings details.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform's Eoin McCambridge claimed the PIAB has been continually undermined and sidelined by the legal profession since it was set up in the 2000s.

Changes are being made to how the PIAB operates on foot of recommendations made by the Government's Cost of Insurance Working Group task force.

But Mr McCambridge said: "The amendment meant to oblige a plaintiff to undertake a medical examination prior to PIAB issuing an assessment has been neutered."

He said the original proposal from last year was that if a plaintiff refused to submit to a medical examination, then a judge will take this into account when reaching a decision, if the claim went to court.

The revised amendment only asks that a judge may take this refusal into account when determining costs.

The alliance claimed "such a watery requirement will seldom if ever be used".

A spokesperson for Ms Humphreys said the bill was drafted in consultation with the Attorney General.

"The court must retain discretion in any given case to ensure constitutional rights are vindicated and fair procedures are followed," the spokesperson said.

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