Law Society urges ‘caution’ on Government plans to bring down personal injury awards
The Law Society of Ireland has urged “extreme caution” following reports that the Government is planning to take action to reduce the level of personal injury pay-outs in Ireland.
According to The Irish Times, Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan has written to the Mr Justice Frank Clarke, the Chief Justice of Ireland, to propose the establishment of an interim ad hoc committee to write new figures for the Book of Quantum.
However, the Law Society said “the appropriate away for any review of the level of awards in this jurisdiction to be carried out” would be through the proposed Judicial Council. Legislation to establish the Judicial Council has not yet progressed.
The Law Society added, in a statement, that the proposed committee “should be approached with extreme caution”.
It continued: “It is important to preserve the separation of powers; in particular, given that the State is a defendant in many compensation claims, it cannot be impartial when assessing the appropriate level of damages.
“The constitutionality of such a practice will also come into view if damages in a Book of Quantum today are much higher than those, say, in six months, as claimants, who reject a PIAB award and who relied on the original Book, will inevitably receive less damages than they had refused and will fall foul of the existing statutory rules which do not allow a costs awards in those circumstances.
“Injury victims are entitled to be treated fairly by the Courts and the Book of Quantum cannot create fundamental injustice. Many medical practitioners hold the view that in some cases soft injuries can be more difficult to treat than say a fracture. In addition, different people are affected in so many diverse ways even by injuries that are not chronic. It simply is not possible to generalise about the effect of soft issue injuries.
“There is absolutely no evidence that reducing damages will result in lower premiums. Indeed, insurance premiums in the UK, where damages have always been much lower, have been and consistently are higher on average than in this country. The effect of reducing damages will merely be to take from the pockets of injured victims of negligence and place into the pockets of an increasingly profitable insurance industry.”