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Friday 18 October 2019

Judges given new powers to throw out injury claims

Law will force claimants to deal with state assessment board

Stock photo
Stock photo
Philip Ryan

Philip Ryan

Judges will soon be able throw out personal injury claims if a claimant has failed to cooperate with the state agency charged with assessing insurance cases, the Sunday Independent can reveal.

New laws coming into force this month will significantly ramp up the powers of the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB) and make it more difficult for people to make fraudulent claims.

The aim of the new legislation is to reduce the high number of personal injury claims which are clogging up the courts system and increasing the cost of insurance for motorists and business owners.

The PIAB can resolve personal injury claims quicker than the courts can, and the system will cost far less than going before a judge.

However, claimants are increasingly seeking to avoid dealing with the agency in the hope of securing a bigger payout from the courts.

The PIAB's new powers will discourage claimants from side-stepping the agency.

Under the new laws, claimants will be punished for failing to attend PIAB medical appointments where damages can be assessed.

There will also be penalties for those who refuse to provide the PIAB with details of their alleged loss of earnings as a result of the injury they are claiming for.

The assessment board will be able to award no damages to claimants who do not comply with the agency's request for information.

If the claimant subsequently brings their case to the courts, the PIAB will notify the judge that the person did not cooperate with the agency.

The judge will then have the power to throw out the case on that basis. This would mean the claimant would be left with no avenue to make an insurance claim.

The legislative changes will also see the process for making a claim fast-tracked through a new online system.

There will also be reduced fees for making claims electronically rather than with paper documents.

Minister for Business Heather Humphreys will sign a commencement order on an amendment to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act this week and the new laws will come into operation on March 25.

The Government's Working Group Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance found more than 40pc of cases were being settled outside the PIAB system. Settling cases in the courts system is far more costly than through the PIAB and is one of the reasons for the high of insurance.

The PIAB processes claims on average within seven months, compared to court cases which can take several years. "For this reason, encouraging more claimants to finalise their cases through the PIAB model - rather than going down the litigation route - will lead to cost savings for everyone involved," a Government source said.

Figures released by the board last week showed the average award for a whiplash claim was just short of €20,000 - more than four times higher than the payouts for whiplash in Britain.

The PIAB study of the amounts it awarded in the first six months of this year found 70pc of all motor claims relate to whiplash.

Ms Humphreys previously said: "The PIAB model is a positive one as it delivers compensation faster, with lower costs and predictable outcomes. The strengthening of the PIAB model, along with the work of the Personal Injuries Commission, and the complementary work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group will lead to the delivery of benefits, both for businesses and consumers."

Sunday Independent

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