New powers for personal injury assessment body

Significant new powers have been given to the State body overseeing serious personal injury compensation claims in a bid to reduce the rising costs of insurance cover and the combative legal nature of the pay-out cases.

Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald announced the move yesterday as part of a series of changes to the laws governing the State’s Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) scheme, after a lengthy review by Oireachtas officials.

While a large number of cases are resolved under the existing PIAB scheme, the significant costs involved in insurance cases and the fact that many of the claims lead to legal stand-offs with companies and insurance firms have led to questions over whether it is working properly for the public.

The Enterprise and Innovation Minister has published new plans seeking to address alleged problems in the system.

Under the new personal injuries assessment board rules, which will come into effect in the coming weeks, any claimant must now attend medical examinations organised by the board so as to ensure independent diagnoses can be made about their health conditions.

A book of quantum must also be produced by the PIAB every three years to ensure transparency, while there will be a broadening of the board’s discretion to release claims when an assessment cannot proceed.

Announcing the changes yesterday, Ms Fitzgerald said the intention is to modernise the powers of the PIAB and help more people to submit their claims to the organisation.

Describing the reforms as “another important step in our efforts to address the increasing cost of insurance”, — a key reason why the PIAB exists — she said: “The cost of settling personal injury claims is recognised as being a major factor in contributing to those costs. The objective of this bill is to further strengthen the low-cost claims settlement model which the personal injuries assessment board provides.

“By encouraging more claims to be settled at an earlier stage, we can take many costs out of the settlement process. These savings should ultimately benefit the consumer through lower insurance costs.”

The legal changes are in response to the Cost of Insurance Working Group report at the start of this year, which stated that personal injury claims are significantly cheaper through the PIAB system than by traditional court action.

The issue of legal costs in compensation cases has been the subject of concern, with State bodies criticised for failing to settle quickly.



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