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Cabinet approves implementation of new guidelines aimed at reducing personal injury awards

Justice Minister Helen McEntee intends for the guidelines to take effect next month.

Image: PA

Updated Mar 9th 2021, 6:10 PM

MINISTER FOR JUSTICE Helen McEntee has received approval from the Cabinet to implement new guidelines aimed at reducing the level of awards in personal injury cases.

The Judicial Council’s Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee’s draft guidelines to replace the guidance in the Book of Quantum – which gives an approximate level of damages for injuries – were backed by a majority of judges over the weekend.

The draft guidelines include a catalogue of injuries, ranging from the major to the minor, each of which has assigned to it a range or bracket within which an award should ordinarily fall.

The guidelines will apply to all new cases that have not yet been assessed by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

The Book of Quantum will continue to apply where PIAB assessments have been made, or where a hearing is already before the courts. 

Speaking after Cabinet met today, McEntee said: “The approach agreed by government today takes into account both the urgency in tackling high insurance costs and fairness for those who have suffered injury as well as those who are required to defend a claim.  I believe we have struck the correct balance.”

McEntee added that it’s hoped the new guidelines will “bring down the cost of insurance” and impact the “award of damages in personal injuries cases”. 

The amendments will be brought forward through the Family Leave Bill to ensure they “can take legal effect as soon as possible”, a statement from McEntee said. 

The minister intends for the guidelines to take effect from April. 

The Family Leave Bill 2021 will cover the transition from the existing system based on the Book of Quantum to the new system based on the new guidelines.

Several business groups have said the guidelines don’t go far enough and were hoping to see cuts of around 80% to most minor injury claims. 

The Family Business Network, representing Irish family-owned businesses, described the guidelines as “inadequate” as they do not bring about affordable insurance costs for family businesses.

“Family businesses in every corner of Ireland have been left underwhelmed by the new Personal Injuries Guidelines,” John McGrane, Executive Director of the Family Business Network, said.

“The changes fail to bring about the reform that is needed to significantly reduce insurance premiums for hard-pressed companies who are already struggling to remain open due to the pandemic. It is clear that the single largest contributor to the cost of insurance is compensation for minor injuries.”

McCrane said an 80% reduction in minor injury claims would make insurance premiums “sustainable” for family businesses.

“As we look to rebuild and recover, we must all work together to ensure that insurance costs do not hinder family businesses from becoming the engines for economic growth and job creation.”

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Insurance Ireland, an insurance market representative group, welcomed today’s approval from Cabinet. 

CEO Moyagh Murdock said the guidelines are a “very important step that will help to reduce costs over time”.

“We strongly support the Action Plan for Insurance Reform and it will be important to focus on this agenda, including strengthening the legal powers of PIAB and the rebalancing of the duty of care between business and the citizen so that trivial and frivolous claims can be eliminated from the system,” she said in a statement. 

- Additional reporting by Orla Dwyer.

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