Kildare accident claimants face tougher new rules

Legal expert, John McCarthy gives his analysis in a letter to the editor

Leinster Leader reporter

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Kildare accident claimants face tougher new rules

File photo: Many claims arise from falls on footpaths

Dear Editor,

Kildare farmers and others in the county will need to take extra care when making injury claims for accidents, as the official body responsible for handling such cases now has extra powers to ensure more compliance.

All injury claims in Ireland must go through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board — the organisation set up by the government to handle such claims in a low-cost and relatively swift way.

But not all claims do, as the PIAB cannot handle more complex and valuable cases, which must proceed to the courts.

The government is aiming to reduce the number of personal injury claims reaching the courts, by forcing as many cases as possible through the Injuries Board. There, an application costs just €45 and the average wait time for a claim is around seven months — and there is no need for a solicitor, as claimants can deal with the Injuries Board directly. Many people, however, still use solicitors when making a personal injury claim to ensure that their applications are processed correctly and that they get what they are rightfully entitled to.

The new rules are the work of Tánaiste and Minister for Enterprise and Innovation Frances Fitzgerald.

“This is another important step in our efforts to address the increasing cost of insurance. The cost of settling personal injury claims is recognised as being a major factor in contributing to those costs," the Tánaiste has said.

Fitzgerald’s department has introduced legislative revisions that seek/compel people to co-operate with Injuries Board.

It has been alleged that some claimants have tried to avoid the PIAB system by deliberately not co-operating and failing to attend medical examinations organised by the Injuries Board, or not providing it with necessary documentation, such as doctors' reports and other required information.

Additionally, a review will be carried out every three years on what is known as the Book of Quantum — a guide that sets a general outline for how much compensation should be awarded. It’s based on the type of injury and how severe it is.

The review, the government says, is to bring the amounts into a more standardised, modern form.

Last year, the Injuries Board saw an increase in the number of claims it handled, up 1.5% to 34,056 compared to 33,561 in 2015, according to its latest figures.

Kildare was among the counties where average-sized awards were made in 2016, amounting to €24,305 and up on the mean award of €22,878 the year before.

The highest award the Injuries Board — which does not handle medical negligence cases — made in 2016 was for €740,968. Dublin, Cork, Limerick and Galway had the highest number of awards, while Leitrim, Roscommon, Kilkenny and Carlow had the lowest.

The Injuries Board says that last year it handled a larger volume of claims arising from accidents in the workplace that resulted in employer liability awards. The vast majority of compensation awards in 2016 (79%) were for sums under €30,000, while a small amount (9%) were worth less than €10,000 in 2016.

While accidents on farms around Kildare often lead to personal injury claims being made, one of the biggest locations for accidents is Newbridge.

In the last three years, Kildare County Council has paid out over €94,000 in such claims since 2014, most of them due to falls on improperly maintained footpaths.

John McCarthy is a partner at McCarthy & Co Solicitors, a nationwide law firm specialising in personal injury cases