The number of claims made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) fell by 16% to 26,009 last year, mainly due to COVID-19 restrictions, according to its annual report.
The body awarded more than €206 million to accident victims — down €70 million (or 25%) compared with 2019. Awards have fallen by €92 million over the past two years.
The board says that the fall in claims recorded last year should affect insurance costs “significantly”. It points out that these figures pre-date recent PIAB data showing a 50% average fall in its awards after the introduction of new Personal Injuries Guidelines earlier this year.
PIAB Chief Executive Rosalind Carroll (pictured) said that lower volumes and lower values were reducing claims costs, and that this new environment was “ripe for premium reductions”.
She added, however, that low acceptance rates for PIAB awards remained a problem. The annual report shows that 51% of those claiming accepted PAIB awards last year, down from 58% in 2015.
The board says its average awards are broadly similar to those made by litigation. Carroll said that PIAB awards were being “needlessly rejected”, resulting in “huge legal costs and delays”.
“All parties involved need to fully support the new guidelines, so that acceptance of PIAB awards and consenting to fully use the PIAB process increase,” she added.
The PIAB chief executive said that the new guidelines should ultimately improve acceptance rates. “Solicitors and insurers also have a key role to play by accepting awards that will not materially change in value through costly litigation,” she added.
Fewer people on the roads
2020 was the last full year in which the Book of Quantum was used as a guideline for determining compensation amounts.
The PIAB report shows that its average award in 2020 was €24,026, compared with €23,861 in 2019. More than 56% of awards were valued at under €20,000.
The board attributed the reductions in claims numbers in 2020 to lower levels of accidents, resulting from far fewer people using Ireland’s roads or attending workplaces. There were also fewer people meeting together in public areas – such as hospitality, childcare, leisure or similar environments.
As claims can take up to 12 months from the date of an accident to be made to PIAB, the board expects that the full impact of COVID-19 restrictions will not be seen fully until 2021, and that the effect will continue into 2022.
Motor category still dominates
The report shows that the motor sector continues to be the largest category of claims. PIAB received 14,137 motor claims in 2020, and it issued 6,058 awards in relation to those claims. The number of awards fell by 25% compared with 2019.
The average award in this category was €22,357. In total, 85% of claims in this area related to soft-tissue injuries – one of the areas where there has been a significant decrease in the value of awards under the new guidelines.
PIAB received 6,823 public-liability claims, with 1,426 awards made. The average award was €26,065.
The board received 5,049 claims in the employers’ liability category in 2020, and issued 1,103 awards, with the average award worth €30,558.
PIAB was set up to enable certain types of personal-injury claims to be settled without the need for litigation.