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Mum who caused 'minor bump' to car while on way home from hospital with son hit with injury claim


The Four Courts

The Four Courts

The Four Courts

It was a busy evening during rush-hour traffic and 'Aisling' was on her way home from Temple Street Children's Hospital in Dublin with her son, who suffers from spina bifida.

While driving through the city, she briefly took her eyes off the road and rolled into the back of the vehicle in front.

The damage was "minimal", she said, and an assessor said it would cost €70 to fix the damage to her front bumper grille.

However, at the end of last year she was notified that an injury claim was settled for more than €62,000, with legal costs amounting to just over €30,000.

"The damage was so insignificant that I didn't even bother getting it fixed," she said.

"The traffic was mental so we moved off the main part of the road and then I assumed the guards would need to be called, but the woman said she was in a rush and had to be down the country and left.

"She took a picture of my insurance disc and I had a bad feeling about what was coming. I waited for the guards to come, made a note of the incident and then I was later informed that a claim was being made against me."

Aisling's renewal quote the following year was for more than €3,000. She admitted liability, but told her insurer it was a minor collision.

The woman she rear-ended claimed she had to receive hospital treatment for a back and neck injury and her car was significantly damaged.

"My son was only a year and a half at the time so any accident could really damage his back or hurt him and if I hit somebody at high speed, I would have had to bring him to hospital," she said.

"I didn't have much money - I had enough to be worrying about. I felt sick when I realised how much had been paid out."

High Court proceedings were issued but the case never made it to court.

Ms Justice Mary Irvine, President of the High Court, noted in a statement last week that 97pc of claims relating to personal injury litigation are settled. She urged parties to try to settle cases to help reduce the backlog in the courts caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.

However, she stressed that she was not asking any defendant to settle a claim in respect of which they consider the claim to be exaggerated.

Motorists, in response, are calling for increased transparency around insurance settlements and have shared their "frustrating" experiences of large pay-outs for minor incidents.

Insurers have cited inconsistent court decisions and high legal costs as the main reason for settling cases.

'Barry' this week received a letter from his underwriter notifying him that a claim against him had been settled for just over €42,000 following a minor collision two years ago.

"It was a very minor collision. I was absolutely dumbfounded when I got that letter. My premium is up for renewal next month so God knows how that's going to affect it."

“Jane” was involved in an accident where she was found to be partly in the wrong as she was in a yellow box.

A car drove into her from the side and she had to have €1,500 worth of repairs done to her vehicle.

The man who crashed into her brought a whiplash claim. He refused to accept the insurer’s initial offer of €23,000, and the claim was eventually settled for more than €40,000.

“I didn’t claim as there was nothing wrong with me, but the thing that struck me is how many people were encouraging me to claim. They said all I needed was a doctor’s note.”

The names have been changed for legal reasons.

Insurance Ireland, the representative body for the insurance sector here, said: "Insurers vigorously contest misleading claims. We make no apologies for this and will continue to do so."

Irish Independent