Personal injury guidelines to tackle high insurance claims approved

Move will mean amending Judicial Council Act and Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she believed the “correct balance” had been struck between combating high insurance costs and safeguarding both injured parties and those who need to defend claims. File photograph: iStock

Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she believed the “correct balance” had been struck between combating high insurance costs and safeguarding both injured parties and those who need to defend claims. File photograph: iStock

 

The Cabinet has approved the introduction of new personal injury guidelines designed to tackle high insurance claims.

The move will mean amending the Judicial Council Act and the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act. The guidelines are due to come in to force from next month.

Announcing the Government approval on Tuesday, Minister for Justice Helen McEntee said she believed the “correct balance” had been struck between combating high insurance costs and safeguarding both injured parties and those who need to defend claims.

“I hope the new guidelines will have an impact on the award of damages in personal injuries cases and bring down the cost of insurance. We’ll continue to assess the impact of the guidelines and if we need to take further action, we will,” she said.

The guidelines set out the level of damages that may be awarded or assessed in respect of personal injuries.

Judges voted to adopt the new guidelines at a meeting last Saturday. The majority of Judicial Council members, 146 of 168, participated in the virtual meeting and 83 voted in favour, and 63 voted against, the guidelines.

The guidelines will replace the Book of Quantum, which set general guidelines for the amounts to be awarded or assessed in personal injury claims.

While the courts will retain independence and discretion when awarding general damages, it will be mandatory for judges to assess damages having regard to the guidelines and they will have to specify, in judgments, their reasons for any departure from them.

The guidelines propose a modest increase in awards for the catastrophically injured, with the maximum general damages for such injuries to be increased from €500,000 to €550,000.

The aim is to ensure awards for lesser injuries are proportionate to that maximum.

In the case of a simple non-displaced nose fracture with a full recovery for example, the guidelines provide for an award of between €500-€3,000, when the Book of Quantum provides for between €18,000-€21,000.

The guidelines provide for damages of €17,500 to €27,500 for the total loss of a ring finger and between €10,000-€17,500 for its partial loss. The Book of Quantum provides for up to €57,200 for total loss and up to €43,300 for partial loss.

A big toe amputation would attract damages of between €28,000-€45,000 under the guidelines while the Book of Quantum provides for up to €70,600.

The guidelines will apply to applications already made to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), except where an assessment has been made.

The Book of Quantum will continue to apply where PIAB assessments have been made or where a hearing is already before the courts.