There is no downside for the chancers who make false personal injuries claims
Sometimes it seems that we make it easy for claims fraudsters in this country. There is no downside for chancers making false claims. They don't have to pay for legal representation as there is always a lawyer around to take on a claim, however questionable, on a no-foal, no-fee basis.
People have been understandably appalled at the revelation that a burglar is suing a shop owner, claiming he injured his scrotum during the attempted break-in. Kevin Victory, who runs the Centra in Kingscourt, Co Cavan, said a solicitor representing the thief had sent a letter claiming damages for the injuries the man received on the premises. The burglar's solicitor wrote to Victory requesting he take responsibility for the accident.
Then there is the Dublin man who took part in a triathlon only five weeks after allegedly suffering "incapacitating injuries" in a cycling accident involving a hit-and-run driver.
The €60,000 Circuit Civil Court damages claim by Graham Dunne (41), of Castlecurragh Park, Blanchardstown, was thrown out on the basis he had given misleading information on his medical history. Conor Kearney, counsel for the Motor Insurers' Bureau of Ireland (MIBI), which compensates victims of untraced motorists, told Circuit Court President Mr Justice Raymond Groarke that the triathlon, Gaelforce West, was the biggest one-day adventure race in Europe. He said participants kayaked, cycled and also hiked up Croagh Patrick during the event.
Kearney told the court that Dunne, a telecommunications engineer, had misled a doctor about his past medical history.
We have a real problem with fake claims. Settlements are large in this country, which encourages fraud. There is very little chance of detection for those making false claims.
And there appears to be no punishment for lying in court. The chances of a fraudster being charged with perjury are "infinitesimal", according to former High Court President Nicholas Kearns.
This is despite the fact several claims have been thrown out in recent years after evidence emerged clearly contradicting the plaintiff's version of events.
Insurers are not allowed to share data about professional, serial claimants, for fear that such data-sharing would be an abuse of privacy law.
The insurance industry estimates that fraud costs around €200m a year.
But Kearns reckons the true figure is a multiple of this, as that figure only represents the levels of fraud that are detected. And it does not account for exaggerated claims.
It really is time official Ireland took the fraudulent claims issue seriously.
Sunday Indo Business