Duty of care law reforms commenced

Duty of care law reforms commenced

Helen McEntee

Significant changes to duty of care legislation which place more responsibility on individuals have come into effect from today.

The amendments to the Occupiers Liability Act 1995 under the Courts and Civil Law (Miscellaneous Provisions) Act 2023 form part of the government’s work on insurance reform.

Building on a review paper prepared by the Department of Justice in February 2021, the amendments:

  • reflect in primary legislation a number of recent court decisions which rebalance the duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users;
  • change the standard to clarify that when the occupier of a property has acted with reckless disregard for a recreational user or trespasser, the standard of reckless disregard rather than that of reasonable grounds should apply in relation to any consideration of liability;
  • limit the circumstances in which a court can impose liability on the occupier of a premises where a person has entered onto premises for the purpose of committing an offence; and
  • allow for a broader circumstance where it can be shown that a visitor or recreational user has voluntarily assumed a risk.

Justice minister Helen McEntee said: “Insurance reform is very much a whole-of-government effort and I’m pleased to progress these important changes as part of that programme of reform.

“Of the 66 actions contained in the action plan on insurance reform, my Department has responsibility or part responsibility for 34 of these actions.

“One of these actions was to update our duty of care legislation. Commenced today, these changes strike the right balance between ensuring that businesses, community groups and organisers of events fulfil their duty of care responsibilities, while acknowledging the importance of personal responsibility of visitors, recreational users and trespassers.

“The commencement of this legislation marks an important step in our efforts to make insurance more available and cheaper.”

Other completed actions which the Department of Justice is responsible for include the introduction of personal injury guidelines and increased coordination and co-operation between An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry.

A review of how the discount rate, used to determine the size of an award to compensate a person for damages, should be set has also been completed. Work is at an advanced stage to set the appropriate rate and Mrs McEntee expects this to be in place later this year.

The minster said: “The introduction of the personal injuries guidelines has led to lower payouts for minor injuries and will speed up and reduce the costs of insurance cases.

“The establishment of the Insurance Fraud Coordination Office, opened by An Garda Síochána last year, will play a key role in dealing with cases of insurance fraud.

“As a government, we will continue to review developments in the insurance sector, monitor price developments and continue to engage with stakeholders to resolve issues in the market.”

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