Blog: Mixed reaction to new Book of Quantum

Sinéad Carroll
Sinéad Carroll

Sinéad Carroll, partner in the litigation department of Cantillons Solicitors in Cork, writes for Irish Legal News following criticism of the revised Book of Quantum from Insurance Ireland, which has called for international benchmarking of personal injury awards.

On the 5th October 2016, the revised Book of Quantum was published. The fact of the publication itself is a welcome development given that the Book of Quantum had not been updated since it’s first publication in 2004.

The publication has come against a backdrop of claims by the motor insurance industry that escalating motor accident compensation awards are adding to the costs of policies. The company behind the preparation of this revised nook has clients such as the insurance industry and the Government. Its clients are not the victims of accidents. There is a question as to the appropriateness of the State commissioning a body such as this to create such an important document without there being an input from victim organisations, patient organisations or plaintiff laywers.

These revised guidelines are said to reflect current prevailing awards. If that is the case (and I am not convinced that it does accurately reflect the picture on the ground), then, yes, awards for some injuries have risen over the past years. However, some have fallen. Indeed if one compares the two books, by in large, while some groups of injuries moves upwards, the same number either declined, stood still or changed marginally.

The decrease in compensation for some injuries is a fact missed by many commentators today. Instead most commentary quotes the dissatisfaction of the insurance industry with the revised guidelines.

As someone who acts for plaintiffs, I have to say that I find the Book of Quantum is not in accordance with the damages that ought to be awarded for some injuries. This is particularly so in relation to what are termed “severe and permanent conditions”. I cite some examples below:

  • No figure is given for total blindness. A figure for the loss of sight of one eye is given as “up to €138,000”.
  • Turning to neck injuries, it is incomprehensible how a severe and permanent neck injury can be capped at €77,900. This is in respect of an injury that will have affected “the structure of the neck and the discs, resulting in serious limitation of movement and the requirement for surgery. Little or no movement regained on a permanent basis resulting in ongoing pain and stiffness with the necessity to wear a collar for long periods of the day”. This is totally unrealistic and it is not understood how this figure has been arrived at.
  • No figure is given for limb amputations (as opposed to digit amputations).
  • The absence of a figure for paralysis is noteworthy.
  • It seems to me that the figures set out are, by in large, modest and it seems that very few injuries warrant six figure sums.

    We have witnessed, for several months now, extensive lobbying by a well-oiled insurance industry machine for a downwards revision of the Book of Quantum. It was said this lobbying was in an effort to reduce premia for motorists. However, there is an absolute lack of data identifying precise causes for increasing motor insurance premiums. Despite numerous calls being made of the insurance industry, they have refused to release transparent data backing up their bold assertions.

    We have also seen today words such as “chancers” and “compensation culture” associated with “ whiplash injuries”. These quite frankly ugly terms are without merit and are brandished about on a regular basis. They are also used to suggest that a significant number of claims for compensation are fraudulent, unjustified and that those who seek compensation should be criticised. It suggests that people with disingenuous claims receive money easily.

    The commentary conveniently neglects to mention the legislation introduced in 2004 which places significant burdens and penalties on claimants who bring “ fraudulent” or “ exaggerated” claims - their cases can be thrown out, costs awarded against them, and it is a criminal offence which can lead to prosecution.

    Plaintiffs have an uphill battle to receive compensation and motorists are being hammered with rising insurance premiums.

    Rather than carrying out a detailed analysis into the claims of the insurance industry, the injured “ordinary” victims are being targeted. They are being judged and penalised for bringing a claim and for seeking to get the best and appropriate compensation possible.

    They are, also, being compared to victims compensated in other countries but only, of course, those countries with lower compensation rates. In making such comparisons however, there is no mention of countries with higher award levels. Nor is there any mention of the often far more expeditious nature of personal injury claims in other countries.

    Victims in Ireland wait years without treatment and are dragged through a lengthy and costly process before they are compensated which is in stark contrast to other countries which provide early rehabilitation and treatment for victims who are waiting to be compensated.

    Blog: Mixed reaction to new Book of Quantum

    • Sinéad Carroll is a partner in the litigation department at Cantillons Solicitors. You can view her profile here.
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