Covid restrictions behind expected 20% drop in personal injury claims

Hope is that declining cases will result in reduced insurance premiums for consumers

The number of personal injury claims being lodged annually has been declining for the last four years. Photograph: iStock

Personal injury claims are expected to drop by 20 per cent this year due to the impact of Covid-19 restrictions.

The decline would have been even greater if not for a surge in personal injury claims being lodged last March and April ahead of the introduction of judicial guidelines designed to reduce related payouts.

The number of personal injury claims being lodged annually has been declining for the last four years. Between 2016 and 2020 the number of annual claims dropped 23 per cent, and the decline is expected to reach 39 per cent by the end of this year.

It is hoped the decline in case numbers and a reduction in the average award adjudicated by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) will result in significantly reduced insurance premiums for consumers. Insurance companies have previously blamed large awards for high premiums.


According to figures released in July, the average award dropped by about 50 per cent following the introduction of the new guidelines two months previously. Almost 80 per cent of awards were now for €15,000 or less, compared to some 30 per cent last year.

Decline further

PIAB's director of corporate services Stephen Watkins said, as of the end of August, the number of personal injury claims was down by 10 per cent for the year, and was expected to decline further by year end.

“On the basis of the most recent application levels received, the overall reduction for 2021 could be around 20 per cent,” he told The Irish Times.

This would translate to some 20,000 claims for the whole year, down from 26,009 last year and 31,072 in 2019.

Mr Watkins said the reduction in claims this year was likely a consequence of Covid-19 restrictions. He said the closure of public places, less traffic on the roads and fewer people at work had translated into a drop in personal injury claims.

He stressed the numbers were provisional and do not include claims made directly to insurance companies and settled without any reference to PIAB.

Mr Watkins said it is “too early” to determine if the guidelines introduced last May were also a factor in the reduced number of claims. It is clear, however, that the guidelines are impacting the average value of awards.


He said there was “a surge in applications to PIAB around March/April of this year in advance of the introduction of the new judicial guidelines”.

In a single week in April there was an almost sevenfold increase in the number of personal injury claims lodged in the High Court when compared to last year, according to the Courts Service.

Mr Watkins said most of those who rushed to lodge their claims will still have to have their cases heard under the new guidelines.

“We have thousands of ‘live’ cases which were lodged to us before the guidelines were introduced but unless we had made the assessment before the operative date then the new guidelines will apply.”

PIAB has said the guidelines should improve acceptance rates for awards, and avoid the need for costly court proceedings.

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher

Conor Gallagher is Crime and Security Correspondent of The Irish Times