Monday 19 March 2018

State body paid out €380m in claims last year

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Stock picture
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

There has been a surge in claims made against State bodies, with legal costs adding hugely to the cost of settling them.

New figures show that €380m was paid out last year by the State Claims Agency, the Government body that handles claims made against the gardaí, government departments and schools.

This is up 232pc since 2010, according to figures obtained by Fianna Fáil finance spokesman Michael McGrath.

Some €80m of the cost of was accounted for by legal costs. Legal costs include medical and other expert expenses, as well as lawyer fees.

However, the figures exclude the cost of claims against local authorities, which tend to be high.

Mr McGrath calculated that since 2010 the State has now paid out €1.7bn in personal injuries claims.

“The number of personal injury claims against State bodies that fall under the State Claims Agency amounted to just under 4,400 in 2017.

“This is a 132pc increase from 2010. The Government really need to get a handle on this and ascertain exactly what is driving the increase in the number of claims,” he said.

He said there has been huge inflation in the cost of claims also.

“Last week it emerged, from parliamentary questions I submitted, that personal injury claims surpassed €300m for the first time in 2017. When the cost of legal fees is included, the true cost is over €380m.”

He said that based on data he has received that it is clear that the healthcare sector is the key driver of the claims.

But An Garda Síochána, the Defence Forces and the Irish Prison Service are also large contributors to the overall number of claims and the cost of those claims.

“What really alarms me is that this figure only tells part of the story. There are key areas of the wider public service not under the remit of the State Claims Agency,” Mr McGrath said.

He added that it was not clear how much local authorities are paying out for personal claims.

And there was also a lack of clarity about the State enterprise sector, such as companies like CIE.

The escalating costs have an impact on the services provided to the public.

Delegated State agencies must pay money into the State Claims Agency to keep it afloat and if the personal injury claims continue to rise, we will see more and more money having to be pumped in, Mr McGrath pointed out.

“While claimants need to be paid the appropriate compensation for the damage caused, the Government needs to get to grips with the situation. The figure cannot be permitted to increase at the current rate without a response from the Government,” said Deputy McGrath.

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