The Government needs to respond quickly and decisively to the report of the Personal Injuries Commission, which has identified serious flaws in our compensation system.
The Commission, under the chairmanship of Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, has made a series of sensible recommendations that should be implemented without delay to make the system fair and consistent, and in the process reduce the cost of insurance to the consumer.
The finding that compensation awarded for whiplash injuries here is on average 4.4 times higher than awards made in England and Wales should surely prompt some reflection about the scale of awards that are accepted as normal in this jurisdiction. The Commission also notes that exaggerated and fraudulent claims are having an adverse impact on overall claims costs and in turn driving up the cost of premiums. One of the problems is that fraudulent activities currently carry a low risk of detection and an even lower risk of prosecution.
The Commission recommends the establishment of a Garda Fraud Investigation Bureau along the lines of the Insurance Fraud Enforcement Department in the UK. It also recommends that insurers step up their anti-fraud capacity through the recruitment of suitably-trained personnel and the development of various technological means of combating fraud. Insurers are encouraged to provide timely information about suspected fraud to An Garda Síochána so that such cases can be investigated and prosecuted.
The key recommendation of the Commission, which underpins all of the others, is that when the Judicial Council is established it should be requested by the Minister for Justice to compile guidelines for the appropriate level of damages for various types of personal injury.
In the event of a delay in the establishment of the Judicial Council, the Commission suggests a contingency arrangement to enable the judiciary to complete new compensation guidelines. The Commission has done its job well and it is now up to the Government to act.