Personal injury guidelines ‘swing pendulum too far’ in favour of insurers
New personal injury guidelines coming into effect tomorrow will give insurers too much of an advantage over claimants, the Law Society of Ireland has said.
“The pendulum has swung too far in favour of the insurance industry,” Law Society president James Cahill said today as he called for the balance “to be redressed in favour of David against the insurers’ Goliath”.
Replacing the Book of Quantum, the new guidelines, drawn up and agreed by the Judicial Council last month, will lead to significantly reduced payouts in most cases.
The guidelines will apply to applications already made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) except where an assessment has been made.
The Book of Quantum will continue to apply where PIAB assessments have been made or where a hearing is already before the courts.
Reducing personal injury payouts through new guidelines forms an important part of the government’s Action Plan on Insurance Reform, aimed at reducing premiums, but personal injury lawyers have challenged the assumption that reduced awards will lead to reduced premiums.
Mr Cahill said: “Lower insurance premiums for consumers is the reason put forward for massive cuts to victims’ compensation. Surely then, a reasonable assumption is that a guaranteed 50 per cent plus drop in damages would result in a 50 per cent plus drop in premiums.
“Yet, the insurance industry would prefer to safeguard its eye-watering profits of hundreds of millions of euro than confirm reductions for their customers. Clearly it is business as usual for an industry that has never taken responsibility for ever-rising premiums.”
He added: “The insurance companies like to put the blame on victims and their solicitors, while they are the ones reaping enormous profits. The time has now come for the people of Ireland, media and government to stand up to the avarice of that industry.”
Mr Cahill also raised concerns that the guidelines will also put more pressure on the “already overburdened” District Court and Circuit Court, which “cannot allocate the necessary time to have injured people’s cases heard”.
He said: “This added pressure on those courts will require more judges, staff and courtrooms to resolve. Failing that, the inevitable result will be huge delays. Justice delayed is justice denied.”