SME expert ‘should be on personal injuries board’

By Pádraig Hoare

An insurance reform group representing businesses has said the lack of an SME expert on the Personal Injuries Assessment Board is a “glaring omission” by the Government.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform said it had “grave reservations” about the Government’s intention to appoint two directors specifically with legal and medical backgrounds to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

The board, an independent statutory agency, was established in 2004 in order to “fairly, promptly and transparently compensate the victims of accidents involving personal injuries”.

It makes awards in about 12,000 cases annually with about 60% of claimants accepting them. The board is made up of members from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission, the Central Bank, trade union Ictu, ministerial nominees, the Insurance Industry Federation and Ibec.

Alliance for Insurance Reform spokesman Peter Boland said Ibec did a “terrific job” on behalf of bigger business, but that the SME sector needed its own representation.

“The impact on bigger businesses of high insurance premiums is not felt as keenly as a small business or local club. It is much more profound for SMEs, whose margins can be so affected by high premiums that it might mean closure,” he said.

The first new appointment should have a legal background in personal injuries, the State Boards Division said, while the other should have a background in orthopaedics, accident and emergency or be a general practitioner. Closing dates for applications is May 11, but Mr Boland said the department should seek out a board member with a knowledge of the challenges faced by SMEs.

“The plan increases even further the influence of vested interests who profit from the current claims crisis, with insurers, medical experts and the legal profession all getting a seat on the board.

“Meanwhile the sectors most directly affected by the current crisis — SMEs, charities, sports clubs, voluntary groups and other small organisations and individual policy holders — remain voiceless, while being expected to pick up the tab,” he said.

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