A recent ‘RTÉ Investigates
’ report has revealed that the number of personal injury claims in Ireland has increased by 50% since 2007; insurance companies are of the view that fraudulent claims amount to 7-10% of all claims and the average award in the High Court in 2016 was €377,000.
ISME (Irish small and medium enterprises association) has recommended to the Costs of Insurance Working Group that perjury be made a statutory offence, as opposed to being simply an offence under the common law. Prosecutions for perjury in Ireland are notoriously rare. Retired High Court Judge Nicholas Kearns, chair of the Personal Injuries Commission told RTÉ that sections of the Civil Liability and Courts Act are "currently under review by the Cost of Insurance Working Group to see if they can be further improved upon."
Ken Murphy, Director General of the Law Society, outlined that often cases are dismissed with costs awarded against plaintiffs, but that a ‘Costs’ order is ineffective as many plaintiffs do not have the money to pay such Costs.
The Courts Service statistics show a significant increase in the amounts the High Court has awarded in personal injury claims up from €22M in 2007 to €147M in 2016. The average High Court award has jumped from €165,000 in 2007 to €377,000 in 2016. Those figures obviously do not include any claims that are settled before getting to Court.
RTÉ also examined Ireland’s pay-outs compared to the UK. The report outlined that an Irish Plaintiff can expect to receive up to €54,000 for a minor ankle fracture, whereas in the UK, that injury attracts compensation of only €14,000.
In the last 5 years, €387M has been spent by Local Authorities in settling litigated claims. The costs were highest at Louth County Council which paid out €16.2m (per 100,000 people), followed by Longford County Council at €15.8m and Cork City Council in third place with €14.2m of pay-outs.
Of the €387M paid out by local authorities, almost 75% related to claims issued by members of the public with the remainder comprised of property damage, workplace accidents and motor liability.
Clearly the Personal Injuries Commission and the Cost of Insurance Working Group have a lot to think about in their ongoing efforts to improve the insurance landscape.
A copy of the RTÉ report can be accessed here