Personal injury awards down 40% under new guidelines, report finds

Personal injury awards have dropped sharply since the introduction of new guidelines by the judiciary, a new report shows.

In the five-month period since the guidelines were introduced in April, the value of the awards assessed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) has dropped by an average of 40 per cent.

The dramatic fall in the value of the awards will add to pressure on the insurance sector to reduce the price it is charging for public liability and other types of insurance cover.

New figures from PIAB show that nearly half of all the claim assessments being made by it are now for less than €10,000. This compares with 12 per cent of awards previously.

People seeking compensation for injuries must first go to PIAB for an assessment. If the award suggested by PIAB is not accepted, they can take their claim to court.

However, most people who reject the award suggested by PIAB go on to settle with the insurance company prior to their case being heard in court.

The new guidelines on awards drafted by a committee of the Judicial Council for implementation by both the courts and PIAB sharply reduced the level of award for whiplash-type injuries.

Because most claims never get to court, the main implementer of the new guidelines for injury awards is PIAB.

The independent State body, which has been operating since 2004, said the report on the value of PIAB assessments made in the five months since late April was “very significant”.

Over the five-month period to the end of September, average awards by PIAB went from €23,877 to €14,233, an average reduction of €9,654 per award.

This level of reduction equates to a total reduction in award values over this period of €25.6 million, the board said.

‘Significant decrease’

The report is the first official publication on average award levels since the introduction of the new guidelines and is based on over 2,600 assessed claims.

“While the guidelines are still relatively new, this is still a significant cohort of cases, and it does indicate a significant decrease in average awards,” PIAB said.

The report also shows that, over the period, there was a drop to 41 per cent in the number of assessments being accepted.

Normally more than half of all PIAB assessments are accepted by claimants.

PIAB chief executive Rosalind Carroll said the figures show that award levels have fallen “sharply” since the introduction of the new guidelines.

“As the cost of personal injury claims has been reported as an important factor in the price and availability of insurance, this report is good news for individuals, communities and businesses who pay for insurance, and ultimately for society,” she said.

The drop in the numbers accepting the PIAB assessments was “not unexpected” given the level of change introduced by the guidelines.

She called for the insurance sector to provide timely data on the value of the settlements being made with people who don’t accept their PIAB assessments.

“It is vital that all organisations settling claims also follow the guidelines,” she said.

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