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Personal injury claims have cost the State €2 billion this decade

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil’s Michael McGrath via parliamentary question.

File photo. Cases against the State can often end up in court.
File photo. Cases against the State can often end up in court.
Image: Shutterstock/Gail Johnson

THE STATE CLAIMS Agency has paid out over €2 billion as a result of personal injury claims since the start of this decade, with over €1.9 billion of this coming from payouts related to healthcare since 2010.

Outside of healthcare, there has been €35 million each paid out over the past 10 years in personal injury cases because of cases related to An Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces while the cost of claims has risen every year bar one this decade.

Payouts in healthcare cases have quadrupled while personal injury payouts from State agencies excluding healthcare have more than doubled since 2010. 

The majority of claims outside of healthcare are defined by the State Claims Agency as “general” claims.

It says: “This includes all incidents relating to exposure to physical hazards, exposure to psychological hazards, exposure to chemical hazards, exposure to biological hazards and crashes/collisions.” 

The issue of payouts in personal injury cases came before the Dáil earlier this month, on foot of an investigation in the Irish Independent which reported some GPs and solicitors were contributing to fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

The Taoiseach acknowledged that insurance premiums and payouts are a “huge concern”, and agreed with Micheál Martin’s assertion that the damages for soft-tissue injuries in Ireland are more than four times higher than the equivalent in the UK. 

As part of overall efforts to reduce the cost of insurance for individuals and businesses in Ireland, the government has set an aim of reducing the payouts made in personal injury cases.

Minister Michael D’Arcy – who has responsibility for insurance – told TheJournal.ie last month that he was working towards his objective of trying to “make sure that we have some of those awards down on the employer liability and public liability side of things”.

He said that a great many of claims made are genuine, but fraudulent or exaggerated claims were a concern.

And, last week, a report from the central bank highlighted that the average cost of motor insurance has risen by 42% in the last decade in Ireland despite a 2.5% reduction in the average cost of individual claims over the same period.

While it’s argued that businesses and individuals have felt higher premiums on the back of high payouts for personal injury claims here, the State has also seen the value of claims rise against it over the past decade. 

The figures were released to Fianna Fáil’s finance spokesperson Michael McGrath via a parliamentary question. 

In 2010, excluding healthcare, personal injury payouts amounted to €9,694,371. In the first 11 months this year, that figure was €23,296,585.

As indicated, cases against the gardaí have amounted to almost €35 million, with over €3 million paid out each year. In the Defence Forces, personal injury payouts have risen sharply in the last few years with over €6 million paid out last year and €5 million in the first 11 months of this year.

Other State bodies against which personal injury payouts have been made in the past ten years include:

  • Irish Prison Service – €27,015,593
  • Tusla – €19,681,104
  • Office of Public Works - €9,102,920
  • Community & Comprehensive Schools - €6,027,506
  • Department of Employment Affairs & Social Protection - €3,015,638

A full list can be found here

The amount paid out in the healthcare sector has risen fourfold in the past ten years, from €81 million in 2010 to €353 million in the first 11 months of 2019.

The vast majority of healthcare payments this decade (€1.6 billion of the €1.9 billion) fall under the “clinical” category. 

state claims agency 2

The State Claims Agency says that “this category includes incidents relating to the provision of services of a diagnostic or palliative nature”.

“It also includes incidents relating to the provision of treatment. Incidents present in this category will be related to clinical procedures, birth specific procedures, medication incidents, or nutrition/blood related incidents,” it adds. 

In releasing these figures, Minister for Finance Paschal Donohoe said that the payments made cover damages, legal fees and other expert costs.

“Personal Injury includes incidents related to a person only, which includes service users, staff and members of the public,” he said. “This excludes property damage, crash collision and non-crash collision claims but includes personal injury claims related to crash collisions.”

Figures obtained by TheJournal.ie show that over 100 cases have been taken this year, with the State Claims Agency listed as the representative for a government department or State agency, in keeping with the statutory function of the agency.

High-profile cases in which the agency represented State bodies in recent years include court actions taken by women affected by the CervicalCheck scandal when the agency acted on behalf of the HSE.

Speaking before an Oireachtas Committee after the case of Vicky Phelan came to light, the State Claims Agency director Ciaran Breen said that the case “should never have been before the courts”.

He told the same committee that “we have for a very long time told all of our agencies and hospitals that they should practice full open disclosure”.

A new bill published by Health Minister Simon Harris this month would provide a framework for mandatory open disclosure.

Harris said: “I want us to have a culture of open disclosure, where health practitioners are supported and where patients’ voices are heard.

It is so important that when things go wrong, a sincere and genuine apology is offered; that there is an understanding of what has happened; and an assurance that what happened will not happen again.

About the author:

Sean Murray

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