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Flanagan seeks top judge's help on injury payouts

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Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan. Photo: Justin Farrelly

Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has asked the country's most senior judge for help as the Government seeks to put in place a stop-gap measure to bring down the size of awards for minor injuries such as whiplash.

The move comes as the Government faces criticism over the slow pace of reforms aimed at cutting insurance costs.

In a letter to Chief Justice Frank Clarke, seen by the Irish Independent, Mr Flanagan asked if it was possible for a small number of judges with expertise in personal injuries to participate in a group with a view to revising guideline award levels.

The group would also include representatives of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and, possibly, the Department of Justice.

The minister wants the judges to consider recent Court of Appeal rulings and part of a 2018 report by the Personal Injuries Commission, which found awards for minor injuries were almost five times the level of those in Britain.

Guidelines

That report called for "a rebalancing and a recalibration of awards" in line with levels in other countries, and recommended that judges compile new guidelines.

It was thought this could be done by setting up a new Judicial Council.

However, the passing of legislation to allow this appears to be some way off, having not progressed since November 2017, and the Government has been under pressure to come up with an interim measure in the meantime.

Mr Flanagan's letter suggests revised guideline awards could be identified "where appropriate".

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The findings could then be published by PIAB, under existing legislation, to supplement or replace guidelines in the Book of Quantum, which guides the level of compensation awarded in respect of a particular injury.

It is understood Mr Justice Clarke has yet to respond to the letter. Mr Flanagan said the exercise he was suggesting would be "a fairly small-scale and manageable exercise, which could be completed quite quickly".

But he also said it would be left open to the judges involved to themselves identify other parts of the existing Book of Quantum where they are of the view significant recalibration of the guideline figures is necessary.


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