Law Society criticises IBEC over attitude to injury claims
The Law Society has criticised an IBEC report which said "spurious" personal injuries claims, encouraged by some solicitors, were responsible for the high level of compensation.
"The real problem in Ireland is not a compensation culture - it's a negligence culture," said Mr Ken Murphy, director general of the Law Society. "IBEC says it want to reduce the costs of personal injury claims, but it ignores the fact that the best way to do this is to reduce the shocking number of accidents in this country." IBEC had warned that if the current compensation system, and the new level of claims emerging, were allowed to continues, personal injuries claims would amount to £5 billion (#6.35 billion) over the next five years.
It said the level of claims often "do not reflect the extent of the alleged injury and can be far in excess of the claimant's earning potential".
IBEC also complained about a "growing malaise in society", a culture in which "opportunistic, trivial and exaggerated claims for compensation are made and in which there appears to be no set rule for the level of compensation applied by the courts, particularly in relation to contributory negligence".
However, the Law Society has criticised IBEC's campaign to improve health and safety at work and pointed to figures from the Health and Safety Authority which showed a 25 per cent increase in accidents between 1996 and 1998.
Mr Murphy said "rather than complaining about the system which enables the victims of these accidents to pursue their constitutional right to claim compensation for the injuries they have suffered, IBEC should concentrate its efforts on persuading its members to protect the health and safety of their employees".
The Law Society noted that Irish roads are becoming steadily more dangerous. Quoting from 1996 figures, it said there were 3.4 deaths per 10,000 vehicles in the Republic, compared with 2.2 deaths in Northern Ireland and 1.4 deaths in the UK.
IBEC had suggested the setting-up of a compensation board, without legal representation, provided both parties agreed. This has been criticised by Mr Murphy, who said it was difficult to see what appeal this would have. "Unless the board was likely to pay equivalent, or greater damages than the courts, injured parties would exercise their constitutional rights to take their claims before the courts".