Call for insurance fraud ‘onslaught’

Nicholas Kearns

The Chairman of the Personal Injuries Commission has warned there needs to be “a massive onslaught” on fraud in the motor claims area and said as a “last resort” the Government could legislate to put a cap on the amount of compensation awarded.

Nicholas Kearns, a former President of the High Court, was commenting a year after the Government published its plan to improve motor insurance provision in the face of growing public anger over soaring premiums.

The report of the cost of insurance working group also recommended the setting up of the Personal Injuries Commission, which is due to publish its second report later this year.

While the cost of premiums has fallen in the past year, they had risen by as much as 70% in the previous three-year period, sparking the high-level review.

Speaking on RTÉ’s Today with Sean O’Rourke programme, Nicholas Kearns said a number of options could still be considered, including the conducting of independent medical reviews and so-called black box policies for younger drivers.

The levels of compensation paid out for motor-related injuries here has been higher than in comparable EU countries and compared with levels in the UK.

Mr Kearns revealed there had been a delay in receiving information from the insurance industry on cases settled away from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board. He said the commission will meet with Insurance Ireland to discuss that data later this week but that it would mean the commission’s next report would be more likely to appear in May or June, as opposed to the planned publication at the end of March, as a result.

He said the new data would help with benchmarking where Ireland’s compensation payout level is compared with other countries and admitted: “I suppose at the extreme end the Government might decide to legislate to cap awards — I think that would be a last resort.”

He also said he believed there was “a significant amount of fraud permeating the motor claims scenario”, driven by the very substantial awards available, very little chance of being caught if lying regarding the injuries claim, and very little chance of being punished if you were caught lying or committing perjury.

“We really need a massive onslaught on fraud and claim exaggeration, which in my view is another form of fraud,” he said.

Mr Kearns also said people involved in processing claims and providing insurance “need to become much more savvy at all levels”, including with the use of technology such as telematics, which would give a real-time portrait of your driving behaviour and could lead to lower premiums for those on such policies.

He also admitted there “might be” a need for new legislation in relation to judges who could be seen as plaintive-friendly, but he stressed that he had great faith in judges to make the right compensation awards.

He was also critical of some cases brought before the PIAB, including a recent case in which a burglar sought to sue a shop owner after harming himself while on the premises.

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