The Irish Times view on trends in personal injury cases

Falling claims for personal injuries and reduced pay-outs suggest that reforms are working - insurers need to respond by cutting premiums further

There is further positive news on personal injuries awards with the latest figures showing a big drop in cases taken in the High Court. This adds to previous evidence of a fall in claims levels and also in the average size of awards.

Given that both the number and scale of awards here had been very high by international standards, this is welcome. It shows that policy changes can make a difference. The work of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) has moved many cases out of the legal arena, often ill-suited for such decisions and involving significant legal costs. And new guidelines on the size of awards, introduced in April 2021, are also having an impact and this will increase over time.

While full data for the entire courts system is not available, the figures for the High Court show that the number of claims brought last year was running at just one third of pre-Covid levels .The latest report from the PIAB also showed a sharp fall in claims number in the first half of 2022 and an increase in the number of people accepting PIAB awards and not going to court.

The system is now in a transition as most existing High Court personal injury cases were initiated before the new guidelines. In fact. there is a Supreme Court appeal, to be heard next month over the High Court’s rejection of a challenge to the constitutionality of the new guidelines.

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Falling PIAB awards and a decision by claimants to avoid the High Court are both positive signs. However tortuous the process has been, the moves to reform the insurance market and end the " claims culture” – now under way for more than six years – is having an impact. Motor insurance premiums have fallen and there is a case for further reductions given falling claims costs and increasing profitability. Public liability is still a problem area and reforms here – including a recognition that people have a responsibility of care themselves – can help.

Having made progress, there is a need now to finish the job of insurance reform and ensure that lower premiums follow.