Tuesday 20 August 2019

Charlie Weston: 'Case could help give our claims culture the push'

 

'Public patience with the failure to remedy our overly generous compensation system has run out, and Ms Bailey’s controversial claim has ensured the Government can no longer put reform on the back burner.' Photo: Gerry Mooney
'Public patience with the failure to remedy our overly generous compensation system has run out, and Ms Bailey’s controversial claim has ensured the Government can no longer put reform on the back burner.' Photo: Gerry Mooney
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

Swing-claim TD Maria Bailey has done the insurance policy payers of this country a favour. Her now withdrawn action for damages against a hotel where she claims she fell off a swing has landed a massive blow to our out-of-control claims culture.

Public patience with the failure to remedy our overly generous compensation system has run out, and Ms Bailey's controversial claim has ensured the Government can no longer put reform on the back burner.

Her claim that she injured herself when she fell off a swing at The Dean hotel in Dublin has ensured she has been ridiculed.

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She has not generated any sympathy, especially after court documents showed the hotel claiming she was not holding the ropes of the swing, because she had items in both hands. Her lawyer's claim that she should have been supervised on the swing has been derided.

Former justice minister and senior counsel Michael McDowell told the Seanad last week the Government's efforts to tackle claims culture cannot be taken seriously when a Fine Gael TD is taking a case over falling off a swing.

To be fair to Ms Bailey, she is not the first Fine Gael TD to make a compensation claim.

Alan Farrell alleged he suffered neck and shoulder issues which affected his personal and professional life for up to 18 months following an accident in Drumcondra, Dublin, in 2015. But the judge in the case ruled he did not suffer a "significant injury" and only awarded him €2,500. Judge Michael Coghlan said last July: "There is little or no notation to back up a claim of significant whiplash."

Mr Farrell had claimed he experienced difficulty for six months after the accident, claimed he had to reduce his activities for up to 14 months after, and suffered occasional spasms up to 18 months on.

But Judge Coghlan was shown a photograph of the TD up a ladder in Skerries, Co Dublin, just four months after the prang.

Meanwhile, the ministerial colleagues of Bailey and Farrell are under huge pressure to sort out the compensation and insurance crisis which is closing businesses and festivals, causing jobs to be lost and pushing up the cost of insurance for all.

We have too many claims, many of them spurious, and we pay out far too much for minor personal injuries. Judges indulge too many claims that reasonable people regard as nothing more serious than a pain that will pass after taking a few paracetamol.

Lawyers are complicit in taking questionable claims. No lawyer has ever been sanctioned by the Law Society for representing someone taking a false claim.

Medical professionals make a lot of easy money signing medical certs for people exaggerating and inventing injuries. This is despite the Irish College of General Practitioners (which trains GPs) telling the Personal Injuries Commission most whiplash claims were "frankly spurious".

All of this leads to an avalanche of questionable claims.

But the jig is up. Middle Ireland will no longer tolerate the out-of-control claims culture. The Government needs to realise it is on the wrong side of this one.

Irish Independent

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