Crackdown on country’s compo culture

SOLICITORS are to be banned from advertising no-foal-no-fee services as part of a crackdown on the country’s compensation culture.

The move to prevent lawyers advertising for compensation business, where they only charge if claims succeed, is the main plank of a plan to curb soaring insurance costs, Justice Minister Michael McDowell confirmed last night.

Mr McDowell said his department was also preparing tough legislation to penalise people putting forward bogus or exaggerated claims.

These include prosecutions for perjury where compensation claims prove fraudulent and legislation to reject an entire claim if part of it is found to be untrue or exaggerated.

This would end the current frequent practice of simply allowing a reduced award in cases of exaggeration or partial untruths by claimants.

At the same time, parallel Government plans to introduce a Personal Injuries Assessment Board were boosted yesterday when it emerged that solicitors have considerably softened their opposition.

The solicitors’ Law Society of Ireland said they saw the new board as inevitable and their concern was to ensure it was fair and that any savings were passed on by insurance firms in lower premiums.

The new board, aimed at cutting the legal cost of claims, had been heavily opposed by solicitors who argued it would unfairly cut compensation payments. But it was clear the threat of business loss was also a factor.

The crackdown on compo-culture comes amid claims from business leaders that some of their members are being forced to close because of mounting insurance costs.

The State is also facing a raft of claims, including a multi-million euro class action for compensation by chronic gamblers claiming their ruinous habit began as children betting on the State-run racetrack totes.

The solicitors’ Law Society of Ireland director general, Ken Murphy, yesterday confirmed that conciliation talks on implementing the advertising ban of so-called no-foal-no-fee services by solicitors was at an advanced stage and could be completed by November 1. A Justice Department spokesman said the advertising ban should be in place by the New Year at the latest.

An Enterprise Department spokesman also said the change of attitude about the compensation board by the solicitor body was positive.

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