Monday 17 June 2019

Seven judges to be tasked with setting new pay-out rates for compo claims

Stock photo: Depositphotos
Stock photo: Depositphotos
Kevin Doyle

Kevin Doyle

A panel of seven judges will be charged with recalibrating the pay-outs for personal injury claims under new proposals.

One judge from each court, starting at district level and rising to supreme, will be selected to sit on the committee, along with two others.

The Government hopes they will have a report completed by the end of the year that will allow for a new book of quantum to be established. The payments levels will then be reviewed every three years.

The average soft-tissue injury award in an Irish court is currently €17,338. This is 4.4 times the UK standard.

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan is expected to update Cabinet colleagues on his proposals for addressing the issue by way of amendments to the existing Judicial Council Bill today. The bill will then be brought to the Seanad next week where ministers hope it will pass without delay.

Minister of State Michael D'Arcy, who has responsibility for reforming the insurance sector, has also applied for an 'early signature motion'.

This will allow the legislation to be fast-tracked into law so that the new committee of judges can be formed over the summer months.

Mr D'Arcy told yesterday's Irish Independent that compensation was seen as "easy money" that tempted even the "best of people" into making unwarranted claims.

Fianna Fáil's finance spokesman Michael McGrath said his party would help get the bill passed before the Dáil term ends.

"I think it can be done. From the Fianna Fáil point of view, we support the thrust of this bill," he said.

Mr McGrath said addressing award level was "the kernel" for resolving the wider issue of insurance costs for businesses.

It comes after the Oireachtas Business Committee decided to allow a Fianna Fáil bill aimed at tackling fraudulent or exaggerated claims to skip the pre-legislative scrutiny stage. The Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019 can now go straight to committee stage in the Dáil.

It will introduce new penalties for those who give false evidence in court. A person found to have exaggerated their injuries will have to pay the legal expenses for the defendant.

While it is in the remit of the courts to award costs, it does not necessarily mean that this happens. The bill also increases the fine a District Court can hand out to €5,000.

Mr McGrath said: "For people perpetrating insurance fraud, there seems to be no downside or deterrent. At the moment the worst that can happen is that the case is simply thrown out.

"The defendant is often stuck with large legal expenses defending themselves against a fraudulent claim."

Irish Independent

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