Taoiseach tells Dáil remedy for whiplash a ‘compensation payment’
Varadkar critical of ‘profit motive’ that exists among certain group of doctors and lawyers
Leo Varadkar said ‘good progress’ had been made in recent years with motor insurance falling by up to 30% since 2016. File photograph: The Irish Times
The cure for whiplash in Ireland seems to be a compensation payment and not medical treatment, Taoiseach Leo Varadkar has told the Dáil.
Mr Varadkar criticised the “nexus” that existed between some lawyers and doctors. He said there was a “profit motive” there and lawyers and doctors made a lot of money out of insurance claims.
The Taoiseach was responding to Fianna Fáil leader Micheál Martin who claimed there was a “considerable inertia” in Government and no urgency to reform laws to reduce insurance costs.
Mr Martin said his party had been waiting eight months for a Government response to legislation introduced by former TD Billy Kelleher that would have give the courts powers to refer claims dismissed as fraudulent to the Director of Public Prosecutions “so that fraudsters would face the full rigours of the law”.
Finance spokesman Michael McGrath had also introduced related legislation which would increase penalties for those making fraudulent claims. Mr Martin said it would help deter such claims because they would be obliged to pay the legal costs of a fraudulent claim and he highlighted that soft tissue injuries earn payouts 4½ times more than in England and Wales.
The Taoiseach said that “as we all know, in around 90 per cent of cases, people no longer need to attend treatment for their whiplash once they receive a payment. It seems the cure for whiplash in Ireland is a compensation payment rather than any medical treatment.”
Mr Martin referred to an Irish Independent report about lawyers and GPs encouraging patients to bring claims and solicitors asking doctors to change their medical reports on personal injury claims.
The Taoiseach complimented the report and said “elements of both professions make a lot of money out of these claims”.
Mr Varadkar said “good progress” had been made in recent years with motor insurance falling by up to 30 per cent since 2016, health insurance had “levelled off” while home insurance had also improved.
But there was still a lot of work to do with “public liability cases”.
They were advancing legislation by Independent Senator Pádraig Ó Céidigh to strengthen perjury laws and had today given Cabinet approval to amendments from Sinn Féin TD Pearse Doherty to introduce greater transparency in insurance costs.
Moreover, the Judicial Council would establish a committee of judges to examine the quantum of personal injury claims.
The Taoiseach added that “if the awards payments go down, we expect the insurance industry, which notwithstanding everything else is very profitable in Ireland, to respond with lower premiums”.