People in West Cork are among those making more personal injuries claims to the courts instead of the State body responsible for dealing with them, some in the hope of getting higher compensation awards, new official figures reveal.
Altogether, nearly 22,000 personal injury cases were filed with courts around the country in 2016, from District Court level up to the High Court. This represented a 15% increase on the amount lodged with the courts the previous year.
Personal injury was the largest type of case handled by the courts during 2016, followed by just over 15,000 applications to the District Court for domestic violence (a rise of 6% on 2015), almost 10,000 child care cases (down 2% on the previous 12 months) and slightly more than 4,000 divorce suits (a decrease of 3% compared to 2015).
With personal injury cases, however, it may all be about to change. By law, anyone bringing a case of personal injury must do so via the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, which is either commonly known as the Injuries Board or just the PIAB. This has been the case since its establishment in 2004, but some people have been refusing to cooperate with the Injuries Board process and try to take their claim to court instead.
The Injuries Board was designed to handle personal injury cases in a swift, efficient and cost-effective manner. This, it was hoped, would prevent the courts from becoming clogged with such cases, which typically include injuries arising from road accidents; incidents at work; and slips, trips and falls in public places such as shops.
Last year, the body reported a slight rise in the number of personal injury claims it handled, with Cork and Dublin among the places where the highest awards were made. In total, 34,056 claims were made via the Injuries Board in 2016 — an increase of 1.5% compared to 2015 — and the biggest payout was worth €740,968, while the average award was for €24,305.
The government has grown concerned about the increasing number of personal injury cases coming before the courts, as an effect is that it pushes up insurance premiums and ultimately the public suffers. Now it is bringing in revised legislation for the Injuries Board that will strengthen its powers.
For people in West Cork and elsewhere around the country, it means they will be compelled to cooperate with the Injuries Board when submitting a personal injury application. A claimant can do this online, or have a personal injury solicitor do it for them. The claimant must then provide all relevant documentation to support their claim, including medical and other reports.
They must also attend any medical examinations organised by the Injuries Board, so a clear and accurate picture of the extent of an injury can be gained. If, however, the claim is rejected or an award is made but is too low and not acceptable to the claimant, they may then take their case to court.
Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald said the incoming changes would help to protect the public by driving down insurance costs.
“This is another important step in our efforts to address the increasing cost of insurance. The cost of settling personal injury claims is recognised as being a major factor in contributing to those costs,” she said.
“The objective of this Bill is to further strengthen the low-cost claims settlement model which the Personal Injuries Assessment Board provides. By encouraging more claims to be settled at an earlier stage, we can take many costs out of the settlement process. These savings should ultimately benefit the consumer through lower insurance costs.”