Sunday 25 February 2018

Premium hike fears as guide sets higher 'compo' levels

Ciaran Phelan, CEO, Irish Brokers Association
Ciaran Phelan, CEO, Irish Brokers Association
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Fears of soaring insurance premiums have been exacerbated by a new official guide recommending bigger payouts.

The new guidelines on the size of compensation awards have set out higher pay-outs for the most common personal injuries. It sparked concern about further pressure on insurance premiums for the State's two million drivers.

Click to view full size graphic
Click to view full size graphic

Insurance premiums continue to shoot up, with insurers blaming high claims costs.

The new set of official guidelines outlines the 35 categories of injuries that are now getting higher awards than previously set out.

Pay-outs for whiplash injuries are 9pc higher; whiplash makes up eight out of 10 of all personal injuries claims.

Under the guidelines, the compensation for a "lower range" soft tissue neck injury, or whiplash, has gone up to €15,700, a rise of €1,300. Claims for whiplash can tend to be exaggerated, as they are very difficult to disprove.

Awards for an ankle fracture are now at €54,700. This is almost €20,000 higher than the last set of guidelines, or a rise of 55pc.

The new guidelines are outlined in what is known as the book of quantum, a general guide to the compensation awarded for various types of injuries.

The State body that assesses personal injuries claims - the Injuries Board - must refer to it in all its evaluations for personal injury claims. But judges only have to "have regard" to the book of quantum, and are free to ignore it.

The Injuries Board, which assesses injuries claims unless they are settled directly by insurers or released to be heard in court, has undertaken the updating of the book.

Its chief executive, Conor O'Brien, defended the rise in 35 categories of injuries, stressing that another 35 either dropped or were unchanged from the last book of quantum which was published 12 years ago.

"The revised book of quantum is not inflationary. It reflects current awards made by the Injuries Board, in the courts and settlements by insurers. It should not create any inflation in the settlement of claims," he said.

Mr O'Brien said the hope was the changes would make it more attractive for claimants to use the Injuries Board and avoid going to court, where legal costs can represent more than half the value of the award.

But the chief executive of the Irish Brokers' Association, Ciaran Phelan, said the overall rise in a large number of suggested awards may lead to increases in claims costs.

"It's unfortunate to see a rise in suggested minor soft-tissue compensation award amounts, such as minor whiplash injury, which are already among the highest in Europe and at a time when the UK is looking to eliminate these altogether."

And retailers have been facing an unprecedented level of personal injury claims over the past 12 months, with over one-third having faced at least one new claim in the last year, industry body RGDATA said.

Pay-outs in this country are three times higher for whiplash than the UK. But Mr O'Brien said it was not within the statutory remit of the Injuries Board to benchmark award levels here with other countries. That was a matter for the Government, he indicated. Judges were briefed on the book of quantum in the summer.

Irish Independent

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