A solicitor is warning that major reductions to personal injury damages “won’t make that much difference” to insurance premiums.
Proposed new guidelines have been drawn up by the Judicial Council, and are expected to see reductions in awards paid out.
It comes as part of efforts to reduce insurance costs.
However, the Irish Times today reports that a number of senior judges have argued against the proposed guidelines in memos to colleagues.
Stuart Gilhooly, a solicitor and immediate past president of the Law Society of Ireland, told Newstalk Breakfast he wouldn’t be surprised if the judiciary is taking this very seriously.
He said: “It’s entirely appropriate that they’re doing what they’re doing… bear in mind the guidelines they’re considering have been drafted by judges, and are now being considered by other judges - all of whom would have to apply them.
“They all have to be comfortable that these are the right guidelines for them to do… certain judges will feel they’re appropriate, and others may not… that’s human nature.”
Mr Gilhooly says he was on the Personal Injuries Commission that examined this issue, and that it’s not correct to say damages here are five times higher than in Europe.
He told Shane: “You’re correct to say that the UK has much lower awards than we do… but UK insurance premiums are in fact higher than they are here.
“The assumption that’s being made without any real challenge is that damages are the main drivers of premiums… they’re not. They are a factor, of course they are… but they are only a small factor.
“If you reduce damages, you will reduce premiums by a small amount… but it will not be sufficient to justify the damage being done to individuals' rights.”
He said he’s “fully in favour” of reform, and that he has no doubt damages will be “drastically reduced” when the new guidelines come out,
However, he pointed to a Central Bank report showing claims cost went down by 10% between 2013-18, but premiums went up 40%.
He said: “Explain that to me: if it’s all about damages, why are claims costs going down and premiums going up? You can reduce damages as much as you like, but it won’t make that much difference.
“I think people need to step back for a minute… is this the silver bullet we all think it is? I think there needs to be a slight rethink on this, before we all jump down and reduce damages hugely - affecting individual victims’ rights.”