Personal injury claims before the courts have plummeted since a new state body was set up to settle cases, it was revealed today.
The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) said it is processing claims three times faster and four times cheaper than the traditional litigation route.
Cases in the High Court and Circuit Courts last year dropped to 4,000 from 35,000 the year before, when the board was being established.
Announcing its annual figures for 2005, its first full year in operation, the board said it was making similar settlements as would be achieved through the courts.
And most of the legal profession is now working with the board, which is contributing to an early conclusion of claims.
Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Micheál Martin, welcomed the reduction in costs and speedy turn-around of claims.
He said: “In the past, the long wait for compensation and the adversarial approach to the process led to huge uncertainty and stress for claimants, and they were often left uncompensated for injuries received for many years following an accident“.
The PIAB said it is now delivering compensation within nine months, compared to waits of three years through the litigation process.
The average cost of processing a claim under the new system is 10% of the award made, while under litigation it is 46%, according to the board.
Patricia Byron, PIAB Chief Executive, said they have witnessed a major shift in the redress culture over the past two years.
“We are finding, for example, that many claims notified to us through our lo-call number 1890 829 121, are being settled right away between the two parties,” she said.
“But perhaps the most encouraging news is that the majority of the legal community are engaging with the PIAB wholeheartedly and that is reflected in the figures supplied to us by the Courts Service.”
The PIAB also revealed it no longer requires any state funding, two years after its inception, with all costs now fully met by charges.