The value of settlements of compensation awarded to victims of personal injuries has increased by over a third between 2013 and 2014, rising from €227,000 to €304,000.
An analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, Emer Lang, was among the first to notice that there was an increase of nearly 34% in the number of compensation settlements awarded by the High Court in 2014. She noticed the increase while collecting data from the Courts Service Annual Report.
In 2014, a total of €155 million in compensation was given out in 509 personal injury claims. This worked out to be an average of €304,000 per claim. In compassion, the average claim was only €227,000 in 2013. This works out to be an increase of 34% between the two twelve month periods. However, in spite of the average value of a claim increasing massively, the average value for assessments that were conducted by the Injuries Board did not increase between the two years. It remained roughly constant, at €22,600.
Consultants from across the insurance industry have reported their shock at the new figures. An AA Ireland representative, Conor Faughnan, commented that the judges dealing with these claims needed to be trained to help them gain an understanding of how compensation really works. He claims that they perhaps don’t understand that the settlements of compensation that they award is ultimately paid for the country’s two million drivers by increasing insurance premiums.
However, others blamed recent changes to the Courts and Civil Law Act in 2013. The new legislation states that any case that was expected to settle for over €60,000 had to be heard in the High Court. Before the new act, a case was supposed to be expected to exceed €38,092 for the case to progress to the High Court. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board’s Founding Chairperson, Dorothea Dowling, claims that the plaintiffs are preferably using the High Court System, over the Injuries Board, in the hope of receiving more money.
“The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance,” Ms Dowling told the Independent Newspaper. “This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts – it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money.”
Mr Justice Bernard Barton-of the High Court-does not agree. Last year, he publicly criticised the government for not updating injury compensation values in the Book of Quantum (upon which the Injuries Board bases its assessments) since 2004.
Judge Barton commented in McGarry vs McGarry that “it is unquestionably in the interests of the proper administration of justice that the Book be reviewed and be kept updated to properly reflect [High Court compensation awards]”.