An online webinar hosted this morning by PIAB on the Personal Injuries Guidelines 2021 heard that, post-pandemic, the availability of insurance cover at a reasonable and fair price will be more important than ever.
Giving the opening address, Robert Troy (Minister of State for Enterprise, Trade and Employment with responsibility for Trade Promotion) said that, for too long, the cost and availability of insurance has had a negative impact on our economy and our society.
The Government recognises the need for stronger reforms and is committed to bringing down the cost and increasing the availability of insurance for motorists, homeowners, businesses, and voluntary groups alike, he said.
This requires ambition and sustained action right across Government, Minister Troy said, and the Action Plan for Insurance Reform lists 66 actions.
“It is one of the most important programmes that this Government will undertake,” the minister said.
“It was George Bernard Shaw who said that progress is impossible without change – and let us be clear, change is underway. Over the last number of months, I have engaged with consumers, businesses, community groups, and representative bodies, and the resounding message from all has been the urgent need for change in the personal-injuries sphere,” he added.
The minister said that the cost of claims was a large driver of insurance premiums, and award levels in Ireland were high relative to other jurisdictions.
“We also know that that there is little certainty about award levels and there is a culture of resolving claims through litigation. This needs to change. And change is coming,” he said.
The Personal Injury Guidelines will be a significant step-change in how personal-injury claims are dealt with in Ireland, the minister continued.
“Our overriding intention in Government in legislating for the development and commencement of the guidelines is to address the economic impacts of high insurance costs, while ensuring fair compensation when someone is injured through no fault of their own,” he said.
In legislating for the introduction of the guidelines, Government had been mindful that most personal-injury cases were processed through PIAB and not the courts, he said.
15,000 PIAB claims
As a result, the date of assessment is the commencement point for the guidelines, and means they will apply to approximately 15,000 claims currently in the PIAB system.
The guidelines significantly reduce award levels for many categories of common injuries, particularly those of soft tissue, and provide further detail on how these should be assessed.
A number of common injuries will now move to the jurisdiction of the District rather than Circuit Court, thus reducing associated legal fees.
The guidelines categorise “fair and just” compensation for injury, with the goal of bringing more certainty to claimants and insurers.
Compared with the Book of Quantum, award levels have reduced across nearly all ranges, but the level of reduction varies from 31% to 69% depending on the severity of injury.
Earlier settlements and reduced costs are also expected.
The insurance industry has previously committed to reduce premiums in line with lower award levels, the minister said, and they will be pressed to follow through on this.
The minister said that it is important that insurers, in settling claims, do not undermine the new measures by paying over the guideline figures to achieve a settlement and avoid litigation costs.
Instrument for change
The minister warned that reform of PIAB was another important instrument for change in the personal-injuries sphere.
He added that the number of cases being finalised through PIAB had fallen in recent years, and that the body needed a “robust framework and efficient process” for it to enable more cases to be brought under its ambit.
Garda compensation claims are also to be brought within the PIAB process.
The minister added that he desired to introduce mediation into the PIAB process, in order to avoid potentially prolonged litigation.