More staff needed to handle compo claims

THE Personal Injuries Board (PIAB) is set to recruit an additional 50 staff to handle the flood of compensation claims.

The Government yesterday hailed the PIAB after it was announced that 25 awards have already been made through the new system.

Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment Mícheál Martin said the number of awards showed that personal injury claims could be resolved within nine months and that "excessive litigation costs have been removed".

The average award was €16,342. In 20 of the 25 cases, the claimant accepted the award, while five people refused their award. The body said there was a 90% public satisfaction rating with the PIAB.

PIAB chief executive Patricia Byron said the awards proved the new system was working as well as promised and claimants were not receiving less money than if they had gone to court.

By May 5, the PIAB had received 20,141 calls and 7,841 applications 3,444 of which related to motor accidents.

"While award levels remain the same, the costs of delivering compensation and the time lines involved have been significantly reduced," Ms Byron said.

She claimed that while litigation typically took up to 36 months, those who used the PIAB could expect a decision within nine months. The average PIAB cost is €1,250, while the average costs under the litigation system is 46% of the award.

The PIAB is to hire additional staff to deal with the boom in new cases and recently advertised for senior assessors.

"We have sanction, ultimately, to take on 85 people," a PIAB spokesman said. "The board was established a year ago, we initially had a recruitment campaign, and now we're recruiting as we go along.

"At the end of the year, we would have had about 30 staff and we're just building up again. It will keep climbing. We have Government sanction to take on staff and we only take them on as the volumes of work increase."

The Law Society has criticised the PIAB, with director Ken Murphy pointing to a High Court decision in January that found the PIAB to be acting illegally in refusing to correspond directly with solicitors of claimants.

"It would be a very foolish claimant who would not use a solicitor when dealing with the PIAB," he said.

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