Whiplash awards climb 9% over past decade

Injuries Board argues that newly-published book of quantum is not inflationary amid fears of further insurance premium hikes....

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The Injuries Board has revealed that payouts of up to €15,700 are being awarded to people with whiplash.

Whiplash accounts for eight out of 10 claims, with the industry blaming higher insurance premiums on higher compensation payouts.

The board studied 51,000 claims over the past 10 years to create the newly-published book of quantum, a general guide judges refer to when deciding damages. They can, however, ignore it.

It showed that there has been a rise of €1,300 – or 9% –  when it comes to soft tissue neck injuries.

Awards for ankle fractures, meanwhile, are now at €54,700. This marks a 55% rise of almost €20,000.

Injuries Board chief executive Conor O'Brien has defended a rise in 35 categories of injuries, pointing out that another 35 were either dropped or unchanged from the last book of quantum, published 12 years ago. He argued that it was "not inflationary" in that it should it merely reflect recent changes and should not fuel higher payouts.

Speaking on Newstalk Breakfast this morning, Senior Vice President of the Law Society of Ireland, Stuart Gilhooley echoed these comments:

"This book of quantum is based on current awards. So in fact, awards haven't been raised at all. They're in fact just reflective of what awards currently are. And whiplash is a term that for instance is being used pejoratively usually to describe neck and back injuries.

"The [€15,700] figure that's being referred to is for a one-year injury and it is up to [€15,700]."

Insurance Ireland CEO Kevin Thompson said of the book's release:

“Bringing consistency to personal injury awards is the first step in tackling the high cost of claims in Ireland. If this new book is strictly adhered to by the Injuries Board and the judiciary then we can begin to tackle claims inflation.

“While its publication is welcome, it is unfortunate that the new book of quantum does not internationally benchmark awards. Insurance Ireland is calling for a timeframe for the publication of the next Book and a commitment to internationally benchmark awards – otherwise it will simply reinforce rising claims costs.”

He concluded:

“While the new Book is an important first step, Insurance Ireland is clear that much more needs to be done to address claims volatility including resolving the Setanta issue and taking unnecessary legal costs out of the claims process. Insurance Ireland looks forward to further policy responses to the challenge of rising cost of claims.”

In August, Aviva Insurance told customers that whiplash claims are adding €130 to the cost of the average motor premium.

The insurer cites poor regulation, excessive court awards and the cost of legal fees as accounting in combination for the hike in premiums.

Aviva has called the lack of action in tackling the issue "a national concern" that is "not acceptable".

Minister of State Eoghan Murphy has called for an end to cash payouts for whiplash, saying that he would "prefer the care-not-cash model" whereby claimants would instead receive medical expenses.