Surge in personal injuries claims as 22,000 cases hit the courts last year
The courts have experienced an explosion in personal injuries claims, new figures reveal.
Almost 22,000 claims were lodged in 2016, a year-on-year jump of 15pc.
The figure represents a 62pc increase on the level of claims being made a decade ago.
Despite the surge in cases, the overall sum awarded by the High Court slumped by 12.5pc to €147m as judges took a harder line on questionable claims.
The statistics, published in the Courts Service's 2016 annual report, indicate large numbers of claimants opted not to accept awards recommended by the Injuries Board and instead took their chances in court, despite the extra legal costs involved.
The report reveals 21,898 injury cases were taken last year, up from 18,992 in 2015.
Some 8,510 cases were taken in the High Court, an increase of 17pc, a further 12,230 sets of proceedings were issued in the Circuit Court, a 15pc increase, while 1,158 cases were brought in the District Court, a slight rise on the previous year.
Courts Service chairperson Chief Justice Susan Denham said the rises had occurred "despite a parallel non-court process for considering such matters" being in place.
The upper level of personal injury award available in the Circuit Court was increased by then justice minister Alan Shatter from €38,092 to €60,000 in 2014 as part of a drive to cut legal costs by ensuring cases previously dealt with by the High Court would instead go to the Circuit Court instead.
The move initially saw 2,500 fewer High Court personal injury cases being lodged that year.
Many cases shifted to the Circuit Court, where there was a big increase in cases.
However, the annual report indicates the level of litigation in the High Court crept back up last year and was close to 2012 levels, when almost 8,800 personal injury cases were taken in that court.
The figures also indicate more than a third of personal injury cases taken in the High Court last year ought to have been brought to the Circuit Court as payouts of €60,000 or less were awarded.
Three-quarters of all High Court awards were less than €200,000. But there were 36 cases where awards ranged between €200,000 and €499,999 and 50 cases where awards topped €500,000. The highest award was €9m.
Meanwhile, the report noted a 32pc decrease in new possession cases last year. "Hopefully this is a sign that the effects of our great recession are fading, and that the alternative mechanisms for dealing with personal debt are successful for many," said Ms Justice Denham.
Some 1,135 orders for possession were made. Of these, 47 were made in the High Court, a 58pc decrease on 2015, and 1,088 in the Circuit Court, a 42pc decrease on the previous year.
The report revealed 526 people were adjudicated bankrupt in the High Court.
It also showed a 125pc increase over two years in applications under debt resolution mechanisms and the Personal Insolvency Act. Some 2,114 applications were received in the Circuit Court under debt resolution mechanisms.
Divorce and judicial separations were down last year.
There were 1,353 applications for judicial separation, a 4pc decrease on 2015. The majority of these in both the Circuit Court (73pc) and the High Court (83pc) were brought by wives.
Some 4,179 applications for divorce were made, a 3pc decrease on 2015.