Department of Justice and Equality of Ireland

06/20/2019 | Press release | Distributed by Public on 06/20/2019 04:52

Minister Flanagan introduces Amendments to the Judicial Council Bill providing for a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

Minister Flanagan introduces Amendments to the Judicial Council Bill providing for a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee

20th June 2019

This morning (20 June), amendments brought forward by the Minister for Justice and Equality, Charlie Flanagan, have been published by the Oireachtas. The amendments provide for a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee to be established by the Judicial Council. The amendments will be discussed today at Report and Final Stages of the Judicial Council Bill in the Seanad.

Minister Flanagan said:

'The amendments published today give effect to a recommendation of the Personal Injuries Commission, established by Government. The proposed changes to the Judicial Council Bill will provide forthe Committee to prepare draft personal injuries guidelines which will be reviewed by Board of the Judicial Council.

'The amendment specifies that the guidelines must be submitted to the Board no later than 12 months after the establishment of the Committee. Under the Government's proposal, the Committee will be required to review the guidelines on a 3-year basis and, if the review indicates that amendments are required, the Committee is obliged to prepare a draft of such amendments for submission to the Board.

'The guidelines are to contain general guidelines as to the level of damages that may be awarded or assessed in respect of personal injuries. The Committee may also offer guidance on matters such as the range of damages to be considered for a particular injury or the impact, which multiple injuries may have on the level of damages'.

Various factors are set out which are to be taken into account by the Committee in preparing drafts of such guidelines, which will include:

  • The level of damages awarded by the courts in this State and by courts in places outside the state.
  • The principles set down by the courts in this jurisdiction such as the idea that modest injuries should attract moderate damages and that damages should also be objectively reasonable in the light of the common good and social conditions.
  • Regard must also be had to guidelines relating to the classification of personal injuries across a spectrum ranging from minor, moderate, severe etc.

To assist it in carrying out its functions, the Committee will have broad powers in relation to obtaining any information, which it might need. It may consult with appropriate persons and bodies, including the Personal Injuries Assessment Board and may conduct research as to the level of damages awarded by courts in this state and elsewhere.

The Government also proposes amending some other key legislation in this area. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 will be amended so as to remove from the Board the responsibility which it currently has for preparing the Book of Quantum and for revising that Book at least once every three years. The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 will be amended to provide that the courts are to have regard to the personal injuries guidelines. Importantly, a court that departs from those guidelines will have to state the reasons for such departure in giving its decision.

The proposal to assign a role to the Judicial Council in compiling guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury first arose in July 2018 when the Second and Final Report of the Personal Injuries Commission was published.

Minister Flanagan concluded:

'The Personal Injuries Commission, which was chaired by Mr. Justice Nicholas Kearns, former President of the High Court, was of the view that this approach will greatly increase levels of consistency in awards, increase the frequency of early resolution of claims, and reduce costs. I am giving effect to that recommendation and it is my hope that it will make a real difference to those who are struggling due to the costs imposed on them by insurance companies.'

Ends

Note to Editors:

The Second and Final Report of the Personal Injuries Commission is available here: https://dbei.gov.ie/en/Publications/Publication-files/Second-and-Final-Report-of-the-Personal-Injuries-Commission.pdf

Measures taken by Government to address the cost of insurance include:

  • The publication of Guidelines for the Reporting of Allegations of Fraudulent Insurance Claims to An Garda Síochána. These Guidelines to make it clear what insurance companies should do in the event that they suspect fraud in a personal injuries claim The Guidelines were also circulated to the Chief Justice and the judiciary.
  • The Garda National Economic Crime Bureauand Insurance Ireland's Anti-Fraud Forummeet on a regular basis to discuss and act upon current and ongoing issues which arise in the area of insurance fraud.
  • A new insurance claim fraud category on the Garda PULSE system went live on 2 November 2018.
  • An Garda Síochána is to implement a divisional focus on insurance fraud which will involve the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) providing expert guidance and training on the investigation of insurance fraud to Garda divisions all over Ireland.
  • Gardaí have mounted a high profile special operation to tackle insurance fraud, Operation Coatee, led by the GNECB, supported by Lucan Garda Station, CAB and the Armed Support Units. The operation involved the seizure of documentation and financial records, seized with a view to submitting files to the DPP.
  • The Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018 was commenced on 28 January 2019. The availability of information collected under this legislation now allows policymakers to have a better understanding of those factors that influence the cost of insurance.
  • An amendment made to section 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which deals with the matter of a verifying affidavit in a personal injuries action. The amendment provides for a court hearing a personal injuries action, where there is a failure to lodge an affidavit in court by the set deadline, to draw inferences and deduct costs from the party responsible for the failure.
  • An amendment made to section 8 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 under the 2018 Act to ensure defendants are notified of a claim having been lodged against their policy. Rules of Court have been updated.
  • The new Personal Injuries Assessment (Amendment) Act 2019 was commenced on 3rd April 2019 thereby reinforcing the PIAB process.
  • The Government established the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) and tasked it with recommending enhancements to the claims process in Ireland. Arising from PIC's recommendations, proposals are being advanced to introduce a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee under the structures of the planned Judicial Council.
  • Minister Flanagan is working closely with Senator Padraig Ó Céidigh on the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018 which will create a statutory offence of perjury for the first time, making the offence easier to prosecute.
  • The Law Reform Commission has been asked to undertake a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages, which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries.