New personal injury guidelines allow insurance industry to triumph – Law Society of Ireland
The Law Society of Ireland has said new personal injuries award guidelines which take effect this weekend have allowed the insurance industry to triumph “at the expense of the ordinary citizens”.
In a strongly worded statement the society’s president James Cahill said the new guidelines represented a new departure for compensation to victims of personal injury.
He said: “The pendulum has swung too far in favour of the insurance industry. All solicitors will continue to fight on behalf of our clients. The balance needs to be redressed in favour of David against the insurers’ Goliath.
“Lower insurance premiums for consumers is the reason put forward for massive cuts to victims’ compensation. Surely then, a reasonable assumption is that a guaranteed 50%-plus drop in damages would result in a 50%-plus drop in premiums.
“Yet, the insurance industry would prefer to safeguard its eye-watering profits of hundreds of millions of euro than confirm reductions for their customers. Clearly it is business as usual for an industry that has never taken responsibility for ever-rising premiums,” he said.
“It reaps staggering profits from a public that has no option but to be insured by one of a handful of providers that control the market.”
Mr Cahill accused the insurance industry of spending enormous resources on “spin”, lobbying and public relations designed to continually reduce the amount of compensation paid to people with genuine injuries.
“People always say that products or services are too expensive and they want lower premiums. I have never come across any injured person who, after the event, would have considered they were over-compensated for their injuries.
“The insurance companies like to put the blame on victims and their solicitors, while they are the ones reaping enormous profits. The time has now come for the people of Ireland, media and government to stand up to the avarice of that industry,” he said.
He added that the new guidelines would reduce access to justice for many injured people who will appear before “already overburdened” district and circuit courts, leading to delays in cases.
Mr Cahill’s comments follow remarks by the leading personal injuries judge yesterday that the new guidelines did not change the law. Mr Justice Kevin Cross, who manages the High Court personal injuries list said judges were still required to assess damages that are fair and reasonable in individual cases.
The guidelines come into effect on 24 April after they were approved by the Judicial Council last month. They were drafted by the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council. They will be used by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) and the courts when assessing damages in personal injuries cases.
The guidelines have reduced the amount of damages which can be awarded, particularly minor injuries.
Judges departing from the guidelines must give written reasons for doing so.
However Judge Cross said if a judge believes it is necessary to depart from the guidelines, all that judge needs to do is give their reasons for doing so, he said.