Personal injuries system has “fundamental flaws”, claims solicitor

There are still “fundamental flaws” in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) system of settling personal injuries complaints, according to a new book.

Personal injuries system has “fundamental flaws”, claims solicitor

Solicitor John McCarthy, who has written a consumer’s guide to the Injuries Board, said while the PIAB was clearly here to stay, many changes would be need to make the system “truly fair”.

Writing in today’s Irish Examiner, the Clonakilty-based solicitor said: “As the system presently operates, if you make an application to the Injuries Board naming one or more parties, the Statute of Limitations is put on hold only against those individuals who have been named by you.

“If claimants submit an application without the benefit of legal assistance they may fail to name the correct legal entity who is liable to compensate them, or they may completely omit additional parties who should be included. Time is not placed on hold against any such wrongly identified or unnamed parties, meaning that if the error is only identified by a solicitor after the Injuries Board issues an authorisation to commence court proceedings, the limitation period may well have expired as against those parties who were not properly named purely as a consequence of a claimant’s lack of legal know-how.”

He also claimed there was another significant issue with how the system, introduced 10 years ago, operates.

“The law should be amended to provide that any respondent who agrees to a claim being assessed by the Injuries Board should not be allowed to deny liability in any subsequent court proceedings that are issued,” he said.

However, Stephen Watkins, director of corporate services at PIAB, said the system had been shown to work. He said claims that took three years through litigation are typically resolved in seven months “without the stress and costs of litigation or a court appearance”.

“It is clear that monies saved in lower [motor insurance] premiums have come at the expense of vested interests who made a great deal of money from litigation,” he said.

“Some predicted that the board would cost €30m to set up and that it would drive claims and increase insurance premiums. Instead, the board is fully self-financing and delivers savings of over €100m each year. Today, many solicitors will privately concede the board’s positive contribution.

“The support of a solicitor, which in the majority of cases is not necessary to pursue ones claim, is a matter of personal choice which comes at a cost. It is always up to individual consumers to weigh up the pros and cons of dealing with intermediaries such as brokers, travel agents etc. and we would advise intending claimants to carry out some basic research to avoid committing to a service and cost they might not need.”

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