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15.43 6 Mar 2021


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The country's most senior judges have voted in favour of new guidelines aimed at reducing the level of personal injury pay-outs.

The 166-member Judicial Council adopted the new rules at a meeting earlier today.

Proposals will go before Cabinet next week on the implementation of the guidelines.

The aim is for more consistency in damages - with awards for the most severe and catastrophic injuries now set at around €550,000.

The new judicial rules are set to replace the current Book of Quantum guidelines on the amounts awarded for personal injuries.

The edicts will mean an overall reduction in damages for minor injuries.

Minor neck injuries will see awards of up to €12,000 and up to €20,000 for minor back injuries.

Meanwhile, the award for minor whiplash where the claimant has substantially recovered has been reduced by more than 60% from €15,700 to €6,000.

Where a full recovery is expected following whiplash, the individual will now receive €12,000, down from €19,400.

Damages for moderate whiplash will be a maximum of €23,000, down from €30,200.

personal injury

The Tánaiste Leo Varadkar, the Minister for Justice, Helen McEntee, Minister of State at the Department of Finance, Sean Fleming, and Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment Robert Troy TD all welcomed the move.

Mr Varadkar said it was "a really important step in the right direction" towards bringing down the cost and increasing the availability of insurance.

Minister McEntee said: “This is an important step which I hope will have a lasting impact on the award of damages in personal injuries cases.

“The overriding concern is to address with urgency the economic impacts on businesses and consumers of high insurance costs, while ensuring fair compensation when someone is injured through no fault of their own.

"It is my hope that the new Guidelines will bring consistency, reduce litigation and reduce awards, which are a major driver of insurance costs."

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) also welcomed the announcement, saying the guidelines "will bring greater transparency and consistency to awards, and also importantly they will reduce the overall levels of awards in Ireland which were until now significantly out of kilter with other countries”.

PIAB Chief Executive Rosalind Carroll added: "The ultimate impact that we should expect to see from the new guidelines is a reduction in the cost of insurance, and in time the consistency and transparency gained from the guidelines’ usage should attract more competition into the Irish Insurance market.”

The Minister for Justice Helen McEntee outside Government Buildings. Image: Sam Boal/RollingNews

Proposals 'will keep the personal injuries gravy train running'

However, several industry bodies have expressed their disappointment at the announcement, saying the reductions in the levels of awards for minor personal injuries do not go far enough.

ISME said the reductions in awards "will not remove the economic incentives for people to sue, even for the most inconsequential of injuries".

In a statement, it said: "ISME is shocked that having waited years for reform, we have been given proposals for damages which will keep the personal injuries gravy train running and this will barely dent the cost of insurance.

"Awards for minor injuries are so large in Ireland, and so out of kilter with those among our EU and UK neighbours, that even reducing them by half will not remove the economic incentives to sue for minor, paracetamol injuries.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform "reacted with dismay" to the new guidelines, and called on the Government to intervene "to do the right thing for hard-pressed motorists, charities, voluntary and community groups, sports and cultural organisations and SMEs severely affected by insurance costs, by dramatically reducing the proposed damages for minor injuries".

Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance, said: “Getting insurance costs down means cutting the general damages paid out for minor, fully recovered injuries to reflect international norms and norms already established by the Court of Appeal.

"It would have taken reductions of 80% to the damages handed out for such injuries in order to do so.

"In advance of the adoption of these guidelines, we called on the judiciary to have regard to the common good in their deliberations but they have ignored this plea and we are dismayed at what they are now proposing.”

The Irish Hotels Federation also said the reductions "fall far short of what is required to bring insurance costs back down to sustainable levels".

Michael Magner, Chair of the IHF’s Insurance Committee, said: "The exorbitant levels of awards and lack of consistency have also made Ireland less attractive for insurers. This must be addressed as it has reduced competition in the insurance market and driven up costs, diminishing our competitiveness, which is ultimately borne by the consumer.”

Main image: File image. Credit: PA

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