High Court injury case awards up 34pc in year
There has been a call for training for judges in personal injuries cases after it emerged that there has been a sharp rise in the level of awards in compensation cases.
The size of the average personal injuries award in the High Court was up 34pc in 2014, compared with the previous year.
The average award is now just over €300,000.
The findings appear to back up claims of a renewed outbreak of a 'compo culture'.
Higher court awards in car-related incidents lead to higher legal costs, with both of these feeding into higher premiums being charged to the state's two million drivers. Motor premiums have shot up by 20pc in the past year.
Research by Davy Stockbrokers analyst Emer Lang shows the total awarded was €155m last year, according to information in the Courts Service annual report. There were 509 personal injuries awards made. This gives an average award level of €304,000.
This was up from the average award level of €227,000 in 2013, the Courts Service records show. Ms Lang calculated that this was a rise of 34pc in the average personal injuries award.
Pay-outs from the Injuries Board, which was set up to cut out legal costs, were static at an average of €22,643 last year. If a claimant rejects an Injuries Board award they can take a claim to the courts.
The surge in the size of High Court awards was blamed on a change in the size of cases that can be dealt with in the district and circuit courts.
Insurance experts said this change meant High Court judges were taking the approach that, where they award compensation, it had to be more than €60,000 per case.
AA Ireland's Conor Faughnan said there was a need for training for judges to help them understand that higher personal injuries awards are paid for by the two million drivers.
The Courts and Civil Law Act 2013 increased the monetary jurisdiction of the circuit court in personal injuries cases from €38,000 to €60,000.
Founding chairperson of the Injuries Board, and the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, Dorothea Dowling, said she had warned the Department of Justice that allowing higher levels of awards in courts would encourage people to shun the Injuries Board.
"The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance," she stated. "This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts - it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money."
Mr Faughnan said: "The analysis of the High Court awards seems to be corroborative of what the insurance industry is saying. A 34pc rise in the average award is very large."