Friday 14 December 2018

New book of quantum risks becoming a chancers' charter

'If you are going to make a false claim, or exaggerate it, then making out that you are suffering from whiplash is the way to go.' Stock photo: Depositphotos
'If you are going to make a false claim, or exaggerate it, then making out that you are suffering from whiplash is the way to go.' Stock photo: Depositphotos
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Hardly a week goes by when there is not some form of bad news for the nation's two million drivers.

The latest hit comes in the form of a new official guide setting out the amount of money paid in personal injury awards.

Officially called the book of quantum, this guide to awards pay-outs has now been updated for the first time in 12 years.

It sets out the compensation levels for various types of injuries, depending on their severity.

The State body set up to assess personal injuries claims - the Injuries Board - must refer to it in all its evaluations for personal injury claims.

And under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, judges "shall, in assessing damages in personal injuries actions, have regard to the book of quantum".

The updated version of the book has far more detail than the previous one, and attempts have been made to get judges to take notice of it through briefings the Injuries Board held with them over the summer. The aim is to make judges more consistent in their judgments by encouraging them to stick to the guidelines.

The problem is that 35 categories of injuries have seen a rise in the compensation amount.

And in some cases the rises are eye-popping. There is a 55pc rise in awards for an ankle fracture at €54,700. This is almost €20,000 higher than the last set of guidelines.

But it is soft-tissue injuries, such as whiplash, that are the big worry.

If you are going to make a false claim, or exaggerate it, then making out that you are suffering from whiplash is the way to go. Some 80pc of the claims received by insurers and the Injuries Board are for whiplash.

Chancers know it is difficult to disprove a whiplash claim. They will be delighted that the new book of quantum sets out a higher compensation amount.

The Injuries Board, which presided over the updating of the book of quantum, insists that the increases reflect pay-outs currently, and should not be used as an excuse to increase premiums.

We pay three times more for the average whiplash claim here compared with in the UK. The Injuries Board is adamant that it was not within its powers to benchmark award levels against those in other countries.

But the fear now is that the new higher awards levels outlined in the book of quantum will be perused like a menu by insurance fraudsters, and those dodgy lawyers that encourage them.

To stop the new book of quantum becoming a chancers' charter, and being used by insurers as an excuse to keep hiking premiums, the Government needs to legislate to allow for the benchmarking of awards against those paid internationally.

This is because you cannot have low-cost insurance if you have high levels of compensation awards.

Irish Independent

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