Tuesday, 6 March 2007
Dáil Eireann Debate
145. Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment his views on the fact that almost 40% of assessments made by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board in the first two and a half years of its existence have been rejected by claimants, that the Board has referred almost one-third of applications to the courts, and that over 90 per cent of claimants still employ a solicitor to process their applications. [8568/07]
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment (Mr. Martin): All personal injury claims, apart from medical negligence cases, must be referred to PIAB in the first instance. Certain cases do not come within the remit of PIAB i.e. where liability is disputed, and other categories of cases must be released by PIAB, for example, those cases where the injury is wholly psychological by nature. These cases are more appropriate to the court system. Many cases are settled following initial contact with PIAB and do not require to be progressed through the entire PIAB assessment process.
I am pleased to report that the PIAB has delivered on its commitments. In 2006 the PIAB made over 5,500 assessments. Since its establishment in mid-2004 the PIAB has made just under 8,000 assessments. Over 60% of these have been accepted to date. Claimants who have accepted their awards will have done so on average three times faster than under the old system but without the trauma of a potential court case looming. Furthermore, they received the same level of compensation as they would have received through the courts. A Cost Benefit Analysis of the PIAB that was published in January 2007 has confirmed that the PIAB awards the same amount but in a substantially quicker timeframe and for a much lower delivery cost. The reduction in the delivery costs has coincided with a reduction in insurance premiums in this country. CSO statistics show motor and home insurance costs have dropped to levels comparable with those which applied 7 and 4 years ago respectively.
While the PIAB has released almost one-third of applications, a significant proportion of these cases are settled and do not require a court hearing. I understand that the PIAB are consulting with the insurance industry in order to better understand these settlements. I am pleased to confirm however that data from the Courts Service show a huge drop in the number of cases entering litigation since PIAB was established. In 2004, some 15,000 High Court writs were issued compared to just 750 in 2005. In the Circuit Court, the 2004 level of approximately 20,000 Civil Bills issued dropped to approximately 3,000 in 2005.
While all relevant cases must be referred to the PIAB in the first instance claimants have a choice as to whether to avail of the services of a solicitor or to deal with the PIAB directly at a reduced cost. Currently over 90% of claimants avail of the services of a solicitor. Subsequent to the High Court judgement in the case of O’Brien v PIAB, the PIAB is precluded from directly contacting such claimants. I understand however, that PIAB, through its awareness and information campaigns, is seeking to ensure that accident victims can make informed choices.
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