Blog: Ease of making claims driving personal injuries cases up



John McCarthy
John McCarthy

John McCarthy, partner with McCarthy & Co, writes on a rise in personal injuries claims.

The amount of personal injuries claims rose slightly around the country last year, official figures show, with most being awarded in places like Dublin, Cork and Limerick, and demonstrating that Ireland’s so-called “compensation culture” continues to grow.

In total during 2016, 34,056 claims were submitted to the independent body set up by the government to handle them, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. That was a modest 1.5 per cent increase on the number of claims received the previous year, which amounted to 33,561, the Board said.

Of 2016’s submitted claims, less than half – 12,966 – resulted in awards being made. That is up on the number of successful claims a year earlier, which was 11,734.

In 2016, most awards in personal injury claims cases submitted to the Board were for motor liability, at 74 per cent of claims, with public liability the next highest number of awards (17 per cent) and then employer liability relating to accidents in the workplace (9 per cent).

Average personal injury claims payout: €24,305

The highest personal injury claim anywhere in the country in 2016 was for €740,968, but the majority (79 per cent) were worth less than €30,000 and 9 per cent of successful claimants were awarded payouts of less than €10,000. Compensation payments for personal injury claims during the year averaged at €24,305, however, an increase on the mean payment of €22,878 in 2015.

Galway joined the other major population centres in the country, including the capital, where the most compensation awards were made, while the lowest were in Leitrim, Roscommon, Kilkenny and Carlow. The Board, which was set up in 2004 by the government at the time to make it easier, faster and cheaper to claim compensation for personal injuries, said it took seven months on average to process a claim.

While personal injury claims do have to go via the board, and the public are entitled to make their own applications directly, many people opt for solicitors who are experienced in the area to help them with their cases. Since the Injuries Board was established, people have been more eager to seek claims for compensation, and that the latest set of figures bears this out.

That victims can easily make claims for injuries or illnesses they sustained through no fault of their own is what is driving the claims applications up. They can do it online, via the Injury Board’s website, or if they choose, they can have a solicitor handle it for them. It is likely we will see high levels of personal injury claims continuing to be made.

The small rise in claims was also due, in part, the Injuries Board said, to some cases being held over from 2015 and eventually settled in the first quarter of 2016.

All kinds of personal injury claims

The Board accepts applications for all the usual types of personal injury claims, including road and workplace accidents; slips, trips and falls in public areas, like shopping centres; farm accidents; food poisoning in restaurants; and claims related to holidays in Ireland. It does not, however, handle medical malpractice, and for that, people need to appoint a solicitor to exclusively deal with the case.

Those making applications to the Injuries Board can accept its award figure or decline and take their case further, to court. That, however, would result in far higher costs for them, and indeed the Board said that for 2016, its costs for processing cases were 6.4 per cent of the amounts awarded. This, it said, represented “a fraction of the costs had the claims it handled required litigation”.

Figures for personal injury claims that are settled privately between insurers and claimants are not currently publicly available, the Injuries Board said.

  • John McCarthy is a partner with McCarthy & Co, a specialist personal injury legal practice with offices in Dublin and Cork.