The board dealt with a total of 33,114 applications in 2017 and made 12,633 awards, worth €315.04 million. However, although €315.04 million was the value of awards made or offered, the total value of accepted awards was €168.86 million.
This means that the value of awards rejected by claimants was €146.18 million, or 46.4 per cent of the total award money offered.
Once a complainant rejects an offer from the PIAB, the board has no further statistics or information on the claimant. Some would probably open up negotiations with respondents (insurance companies, employers, public bodies) to seek a higher award – and some would take their claims to court.
As expected, motor liability was the largest of the awards made, comprising 72 per cent of awards, while public liability and employers’ liability took up 18 per cent and 10 per cent respectively. The largest award was €605,095, while the average overall award was €24,879. Over half of all PIAB awards in 2017 were under €20,000.
The average award in motor liability was €23,234, in public liability it was €27,638, and employers’ liability was €32,015. The report concluded that the higher average award in employers’ liability reflected the “often more serious and complex nature of injuries sustained in workplace accidents.”
There has been a lot of controversy over the past few years about ‘whiplash’ injuries in motor accidents. There is no breakdown in the report of the type of injuries sustained in road accidents, making it impossible to tell exactly what the figures are for ‘whiplash’ claims or awards.
However, a spokesman for the PIAB said that it had now begun to code claims differently, so that, in the future, it would be possible to outline the nature of the different injury claims (for example, spinal injuries, back injuries, neck injuries).
He estimated that about 70 per cent of motor liability claims were for whiplash-type injuries. This type of injury is notoriously difficult to prove medically. The board told the Gazette that when assessing these claims, it required a report from the treating doctor. The spokesman added that they would often send the claimant for assessment by an independent doctor, and, if necessary, investigate the claim further before deciding on the merits of the claimant’s case.
The PIAB bases its assessment of claims on guidance provided by the Book of Quantum, a guide to compensation levels in Ireland. The courts are also required to have regard to this under the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004.
The Book of Quantum has guidelines on neck injuries, specifically on ‘whiplash/soft tissue’ injuries. There are five categories under which monetary awards are made, and these range from ‘minor – substantially recovered’ (which can attract an award of up to €15,700) to ‘severe and permanent’, which can be compensated by awards ranging from €44,600 to €77,900.