The average award for a minor personal injury fell to €13,825 last year, a drop of more than 40 per cent.
According to end of year figures from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), its awards reduced in average value by 42 per cent in the eight months to the end of December 2021.
The drop followed the introduction of new guidelines, drafted by a subcommittee of the Judicial Council and adopted last March by a majority of judges, slashing sums for mainly minor personal injuries.
The average value of PIAB awards fell from €23,877 before the guidelines to €13,825 since they came into operation last April.
PIAB’s end of year figures show that the number of claims received by it in the 12 months to the end of 2021 was 21,410.
That represents an 18 per cent reduction compared with 2020, when the number of claims was 26,000.
PIAB is expected in the coming days to publish its full report concerning the treatment of claims made to it last year which will disclose the level of acceptances by claimants of its awards.
An earlier report from PIAB, which concerned 2,649 claims made between late April and September 2021, found the number of claimants prepared to accept the lower PIAB awards during that period had fallen to 37.1 per cent compared with 50.8 per cent in 2020.
As most minor injury claims currently before the courts were initiated before the guidelines, they will be decided under older guidelines known as the book of quantum, which generally provides for higher awards for soft-tissue injuries.
While claim numbers have declined across all categories, the Covid-19 pandemic restrictions leading to less road traffic, closed workplaces and public spaces was a main contributor to the decline.
Employers and local authorities are among those who remain concerned about the costs of insurance to meet claims.
According to figures just released by Meath County Council, it paid out more than €8.7 million to meet 569 public-liability claims made over the five-year period 2017-2021.
Public-liability claims include accidents in public places and council properties as well as accidents, allegedly caused by the council, in third-party places.
The top three causes of claims were listed by the council’s insurers as pothole incidents, trips or slips on footpaths, and road incidents. In 2017 there were 19 pothole claims, 24 footpath/slip/trip claims and 18 road claims. The numbers fluctuated over the following years but in 2021 there were 102 pothole claims, 24 footpath and slip/trip claims and 30 road claims.
In 2017, the council paid out a gross €96,722 for pothole claims, €595,789 for footpath/slip and trip claims and €419,392 for road claims.
Last year, the cost of pothole claims fell to €47,509, footpath and slip/trip claims fell slightly to €535,888 and the cost of road claims increased to €2.1 million.
The Central Bank’s national claims information database shows that, between 2009 and 2019, the average cost of an employers’ liability claim and of a public-liability claim rose by 31 and 16 per cent respectively.
The total number of claims in 2019 was 25,893, with claim costs amounting to €468 million. The number of claims was highest in 2009 at 49,031, with costs of €713 million, and they have substantially fallen since.