Monday 16 September 2019

Editorial: 'Judges and politicians share blame for insurance fraud'

The society has written to junior finance minister Michael D'Arcy saying it won't be able to continue operating 'Save-As-You-Earn' (SAYE) schemes here without a Brexit deal. Photo: Tom Burke
The society has written to junior finance minister Michael D'Arcy saying it won't be able to continue operating 'Save-As-You-Earn' (SAYE) schemes here without a Brexit deal. Photo: Tom Burke
Editorial

Editorial

Mark Twain felt it was a sound judgment to put on a bold face and play your hand for a 100 times what it is worth; 49 times out of 50 nobody dares to call it, and you roll in the chips.

Junior Business Minister Michael D'Arcy seems to share the view.

His warning to judges that he would seek a referendum to strip them of discretion on compensation awards unless they come down smacks of a bold bluff.

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The country would surely benefit from putting an end to the exorbitant payouts that can turn minor mishaps into Lotto wins.

For far too long the insurance industry has been seen as a soft touch when it comes to soft tissue injuries.

The average whiplash claim in Ireland comes in at €20,000.

So Mr D'Arcy is not best pleased. If the judges don't act, the matter will have to be reviewed by the Oireachtas.

This sound and fury plays well to the galleries but there is, however, the small matter of the separation of powers to be considered.

Mr D'Arcy at least acknowledges there may be an issue regarding the constitutionality of the Oireachtas overriding judicial discretion.

Our learned friends will certainly have quite a lot to thunder about concerning any trespassing on their turf.

But the Government also has a case to answer.

The Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association (Isme) has long argued our perjury laws make it too difficult to prosecute.

This makes fraudulent claims impossible to deal with.

There is only one known case of a person being convicted for providing a false statement in a personal injuries case. Indeed, Isme chief executive Neil McDonnell recently quoted in this paper said: "It is a disgrace that our courts are weekly hosts to a tragi-comedy of lies, told in order to extort damages from innocent motorists."

Yet it was Mr D'Arcy's own department that scrapped plans for a claims register, despite a report which recommended one being presented by its own working group on insurance reform.

Such a register would have provided vital annual statistics on claims costs - invaluable to gardaí in combating fraud.

Eye-watering court payouts for minor injuries have driven up premiums for honest customers for decades.

There have been countless stern warnings from Government, but nothing changes in terms of meaningful reform.

The minister says he is adopting a carrot and stick approach with the judges.

Given that the law can sometimes be an ass this might be appropriate in other circumstances.

However, lashing out at judges - while failing to recognise the Government is also negligent in reining in inflated claims - seems disingenuous.

Irish Independent

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