The Alliance for insurance Reform has called on the Judiciary to act swiftly and with the common good in mind in recalibrating general damages for minor personal injuries following the passing of the Judicial Council Bill through all stages in the Dáil recently.
“We acknowledge the Government’s action in fast-tracking this detailed Bill with the support of the Opposition,” said Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance, recently, “Among other things it enables the Judiciary to establish a Personal Injury Guidelines Committee to recalibrate general damages for minor injuries, damages which have been acknowledged to be a major contributor to the current insurance crisis.
“But we’re concerned that this opportunity for genuine reform to save jobs and maintain services that are part of the fabric of our society will be unnecessarily delayed and potentially, lost entirely.”
The Alliance has two concerns about the Bill which was signed by the President on 23rd July.
Firstly, following the adoption of amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil, the timelines for the establishment and operation of the new Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee have been reduced.
“It may still take almost two-and-a-half years before new personal injuries guidelines are produced if the timelines in the Bill are followed,” said Peter Boland, “By then many more charities, voluntary groups, sports clubs and businesses will have ceased or reduced operations due to high premiums.
“Secondly, the terms of reference for the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee are too vague. They do not mention specific guiding principles such as ‘moderate damages for modest injuries’ or that damages be proportionate in the context of the current cap on general damages for catastrophic injuries of €450,000.
“In the absence of this explicit direction, it is conceivable that little or no change in damages could result so that all we’ve got now is a shiny piece of legislation.”
The process of setting up the Council and the PIGC must be prioritised by Government and not left to the Autumn, he says.
“Rising insurance premiums don’t take Summer holidays. There’s a surplus of €18 million sitting in a Personal Injury Assessment Board account which has come from policyholders and some of this money can be used to initially resource the Council.
“The onus to act will then rest with the judiciary. We therefore call on the judiciary to address this issue as a matter of urgency in the interests of the common good and to take account of the guiding principles set out in the Court of Appeal including ‘moderate damages for modest injuries’ and proportionality to produce and publish a new set of personal injuries guidelines by the end of this year.”
The latest development comes at a time when some pubs such as Mooneys on the Quay in Wexford have had to close due to the increasingly high cost of insurance premia.
According to Mooney’s proprietors, “Spiralling insurance costs have made the entertainment industry practically unsustainable over the last couple of years and there is no signs of the ‘powers that be’ bringing the insurance industry under control anytime soon.
“Couple this with highly exorbitant rates and the situation has unfortunately claimed the livelihoods of many Wexford people over the past number of years, with the historic ‘Mooney’s on the Quay’ just being its latest victim.
“We are immensely proud to have provided employment and enjoyment to so many people over the last nine years. We breathed new life into an unoccupied, almost derelict building on the Wexford Quay front and filled it full of joy and laughter.”
The statement continued, “Recent changes to drinking legislation is continuing to close pubs and clubs throughout Ireland and in years to come it is not beyond the bounds of possibility that you will have to travel to New York to find a traditional Irish Pub.
“In the not too distant future this country will lament the culture that has made us world-famous.”
According to a report on the pub in the Irish Independent recently, VFI Chief Executive Padraig Cribben said that his members are experiencing dramatic unsustainable insurance increases.
“The reluctance of insurance companies to properly and fully defend cases and a willingness of the legal profession to take on spurious cases and to substantially reward themselves for doing so is part of the problem,” he added.
AIR’s Peter Boland, told Drinks Industry Ireland, “You can expect more of these announcements if things don’t happen more quickly. If you press ‘Pause’ on the Government’s progress on this, nothing that has happened so far will apply any downward pressure to insurance costs because all they’ve done so far is develop legislation and develop an approach because nothing material has happened yet. So what happens next over the Summer and into the Autumn is critical”.