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Should the law be changed to introduce caps on personal injury claims? A review has been launched

Reviews are also set to be carried out in areas of law concerning hotel liability and privacy in the digital era.

File photo
File photo
Image: Shutterstock/Monkey Business Images

THE LAW REFORM Commission has outlined plans to review legislation in a number of areas including putting a cap on personal injury claims, hotel liability law and privacy in the digital era. 

The independent state-appointed body is responsible for reviewing and making recommendations on Irish law reform. 

The latest agenda will see separate reviews carried out in 15 areas of Irish law after the commission completed a period of consultation which involved public meetings in Limerick, Dublin, Galway and Dundalk. 

It received over 70 written submissions from individuals, NGOs, representative groups and government departments separate to the public meetings, and in total, received over 150 submissions. 

Caps on damages

Following submissions from government entities, Cost of Insurance Working Group and the Personal Injuries Commission, the LRC will re-visit the prospect of putting caps on damages awarded in personal injuries cases. 

It previously made a recommendation that legislation on damages awarded in such claims should be developed based on case law, or using cases that come before the courts as precedent. 

This time “the commission will examine whether it is appropriate to legislate for a cap to be placed on the levels of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injury claims.”

Concerns around the high amount of damages awarded in personal injuries cases – whiplash sustained in a car accident, for example – have repeatedly been raised by politicians as well as by industry experts. 

The LRC review will decide whether measures should be put in place to cap the amount that can be awarded.

Hotels

Another area set to be examined by the LRC involves the liability of hotels and related establishments in relation to damage caused to a guest’s property. 

The Hotel Proprietors Act 1963 provides that “the hotel is strictly liable for the damage, loss or destruction of a guest’s property” and that the “liability rule is limited to €127″. 

It means that in the case of damage caused to a guest’s property, the hotel is liable up to the value of €127, although some things such as a guest’s car are excluded. 

The same act also states that hotels must provide “reasonable” prices under a “duty to provide accommodation” which the LRC precluded “does not appear to reflect the reality of hotel prices in the second decade of the 21st century, where the majority of hotel rooms are booked online, with algorithms”. 

In light of this, the LRC is to review both the limit of €125 for hotel liability and the impact of the online booking process on pricing.

It will also review whether the establishments such as hostels, B&Bs and short-term lets should be included in the act which currently specifies liability concerning hotels only. 

Some of the other review projects involve the right to privacy in an increasingly digitized world and how that lines up with the ‘internet of things’ and the development of autonomous vehicles and vessels.

It will also examine where Ireland stands in comparison to other jurisdictions when it comes to sentencing in the courts

As it stands Judges use their own discretion when making a decision on how long someone should be sentenced for, and the LRC will now consider the area of “structured sentencing” from that perspective. 

A framework for safeguarding adults, legislation on sexual offences and perjury are also on the agenda. 

President of the LRC, Ms Justice Mary Laffoy said: “The importance of public consultation in relation to the content and the commission’s development of a programme of law reform cannot be emphasised too strongly.

“Nor can the invaluable contribution which members of the public, private organisations, and public organisations make to such content and development,” she added. 

“The commission has started working on some of the projects in the fifth programme and it is hoped that it will publish issues papers and reports in relation to most, if not all, of those projects over the next three years.”

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