Personal Injury Awards: The Tide is Turning?

It is over 6 months since the Personal Injuries Guidelines (“the Guidelines”) (as discussed in previous articles here: Judicial Council Guidelines & Judicial Guidelines)were commenced on 24th April last. The Guidelines were commenced in an effort to reduce and standardise awards in personal injuries matters, and also as a result of persistent pressure from the insurance sector, mainly policyholders. The question is whether the Guidelines have had the impact they are designed to have.

It is arguably too soon to analyse awards handed down by the Judiciary, as it takes anywhere from 12 to 24 months for a claim to filter through the Court process. Equally, we are faced with the reality that most actions taken are settled, with no data available in relation to the majority of these settlements. Therefore, analysis of the awards made by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (“PIAB”) is key to examining whether the Guidelines have had any effect.

PIAB’s annual report, published on 27th July last (available herehttps://www.piab.ie/eng/news-publications/Corporate-publications/2020-Annual-Report.pdf), is the first steppingstone in the analysis of awards under the new regime. In the three-month period following the implementation of the Guidelines, a 50% fall in the average value of awards was seen. This has set the trend across the board and has been backed up by a further PIAB report entitled ‘PIAB Personal Injuries Award Values April 24th – 30th September 2021. This report has analysed a five-month period of the current regime and the results are as follows;

  • 2,649 claims assessed pursuant to the Guidelines;
  • Average award reduced by 40% to €14,233 (including special damages);
  • General damages awards reduced by 46% to €11,808;
  • Motor Liability claims reduced by 40% from to €13,230;
  • Public Liability claims reduced by 40% to €15,697;
  • Employers Liability claims reduced by 44% to €17,203.
  • Almost half (48%) of all awards made by PIAB were under €10,000, compared to just 12% of awards in 2020.

It is clear to see that the Guidelines have had a significant impact on the level of PIAB awards to date. The Government, amongst others have welcomed this evidence of reduction in awards since the publication of the Guidelines. The question remains however, is it here to stay?

Awards are part and parcel of personal injuries actions. It does not necessarily end there. This award must be accepted by both the Claimant and the Respondent. Early indications show that contrary to what PIAB initially thought would happen post Guidelines, Claimant acceptance rates have fallen by 14% compared to 2020. This means that unless the Claimant does not wish to continue the action, the next step is to initiate Court proceedings. This brings us back to whether the Guidelines will have a long-lasting impact, and whether the Judiciary will apply them as rigidly as PIAB have to date.

To date, there have been no specific decisions in relation to quantum by the Courts. However, it is expected that cases to which the Guidelines specifically apply will come before the Courts by the turn of 2022. However, it is noted that the Guidelines were not unanimously supported by the Judiciary, with a vote of 83 to 63 of the Judicial Council on 6th March last. It is also noted that certain members of the Judiciary have stated that the Guidelines “ do not change the law”. It remains to be seen whether the tide has turned for good.

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