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New guidelines on whiplash awards could be out of date before they come in


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NEW guidelines on court awards for personal injuries that have been drawn up by judges are set to be out of date before they are adopted, insurance reformers maintain.

The 166-member Judicial Council met virtually last Friday to discuss the draft guidelines, prepared by a committee headed by High Court president Mary Irvine.

Awards for minor whiplash injuries would be cut by up to 50pc under proposals being examined by the judiciary.

If adopted, the move would be significant for motorists as insurers have promised to lower premiums if awards for minor injuries, which make up the bulk of claims, are reduced.

But the Alliance for Insurance Reform has called on the judiciary to ensure huge whiplash reductions on the way in England and Wales are factored into calculations.

It has expressed serious concerns regarding the validity of the Judicial Personal Injuries Guidelines due to be adopted on February 20 in light of reforms due to be put in place in England and Wales this May.

“Personal injury damages for whiplash injuries, which account for a massive proportion of personal injury claims in Ireland, are already 4.4 times higher than in England and Wales,” said director of the Alliance Peter Boland.

“But this May, awards for minor whiplash injuries in England and Wales are scheduled to be dramatically reduced.

“This will leave the guidelines due to be adopted by the Judicial Council on February 20 completely out of sync with the jurisdiction that much of our legal precedent comes from, to an extent that will make it difficult to maintain the credibility of the Irish guidelines unless this reduction is factored in.”

The Alliance represents charities, voluntary and community groups, sports and cultural organisations and SMEs severely affected by insurance costs.

Current recommended payouts for minor injuries are 80pc lower in England and Wales than here.

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Alliance members want an 80pc cut in award levels here, rather than the 50pc cut being proposed by the judges.

And English and Welsh payouts will fall even more in the coming months.

The changes being introduced there in May mean that a payout for a whiplash injury, where the claimant recovers within a year, will fall from £3,710 (€4,221) currently to £1,250 in May.

In this country the current award level is €15,700.

A whiplash injury, where there is recovery within two years currently pays on average £6,730 in England and Wales.

The amount is expected to drop to £3,910 in May.

The guidelines for this country state that the equivalent injury would generate a payout of €19,400,

“We call on the Judicial Council, in their deliberations between now and February 20, to take the new England and Wales guidelines into account and have regard to the common good in reducing general damages for fully recovered minor injuries by at least 80pc to reflect international norms and norms already established by the Court of Appeal,” said Mr Boland.

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