Motor Industry Criticises High Court Settlements

Representatives for Ireland’s largest motor insurance companies have called for a revision in how judges award claims for compensation brought to the High Court.

Conor Faughan, who works at AA Ireland, was the first to make the criticisms. He was referring to a recent statistic that said that, on average, the value of claims awarded by the High Court increased from €227,000 to €304,000 between 2013 and 2015.

Mr Faughan criticised the judges in the courts, saying that they needed to be reminded that the settlements are funded by Ireland’s two million motorists. However,  there are inaccuracies in the claim – personal injury claims resulting from traffic accidents to not often reach the High Court. Even so, Mr Faughan correctly pointed out that, over the same time period, the value of claims assessed by the Injuries Board Ireland remained around €22,600.

Some attribute to the climb in value to changes in the Courts and Civil Law Act 2013. Under these changes, the minimum potential compensation level for cases to be heard in the High Court was changed from €38,092 to €60,000. It is also believed that judges are awarding €60,000 in cases where they believe less should be paid because of these restrictions.

The founding chairperson of the Injuries Board and the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, Dorothea Dowling, has stated her belief that plaintiffs are rejecting assessments by the Injuries Board in favour of pursuing a potentially higher settlement in the courts. Speaking to the Independent, she said that “The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance. 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 has also been outspoken on the issue, particularly in his criticism of the pitted Book of Quantum (a reference for injury compensation settlements). He commented that the book was essentially ignored by judges because it had not been updated since 2004, and commented 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 [compensation awards made by the High Court]”.