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Alliance calls on Judiciary to move swiftly, for common good, on new damages guidelines

The Alliance for insurance Reform has called on the Judiciary to act swiftly and with the common good in mind in recalibrating general damages for minor personal injuries, following the passing of the Judicial Council Bill through all stages in the Dáil this afternoon.

Peter Boland, director of the Alliance said: “We acknowledge the Government’s action in fast-tracking this detailed Bill with the support of the Opposition. Among other things, it enables the Judiciary to establish a Personal Injury Guidelines Committee to recalibrate general damages for minor injuries, damages which have been acknowledged to be a major contributor to the current insurance crisis. But we are concerned that this opportunity for genuine reform to save jobs and maintain services that are part of the fabric of our society will be unnecessarily delayed and, potentially, lost entirely.

"We have two concerns. Firstly, following the adaption of amendments tabled by Fianna Fáil today, the timelines for the establishment and operation of the new Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee (PIGC) have been reduced; but it may still take almost 2 and a half years before new personal injuries guidelines are produced, if the timelines in the Bill are followed. By then, many more charities, voluntary groups, sports clubs and businesses will have ceased or reduced operations due to high premiums.

“Secondly, the terms of reference for the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee are too vague. They do not mention specific guiding principles such as ‘moderate damages for modest injuries’ or that damages be proportionate in the context of the current cap on general damages for catastrophic injuries of €450,000.

"In the absence of this explicit direction, it is conceivable that little or no change in damages could result.

“The Government has committed to enacting this Bill by the third week in July. Once that has happened, the process of setting up the Council and the PIGC must be prioritised by Government and not left to the autumn. Rising insurance premiums don’t take summer holidays. There is a surplus of €18m sitting in a PIAB account which has come from policyholders and some of this money can be used to initially resource the Council.

“The onus to act will then rest with the Judiciary. We therefore call on the Judiciary to address this issue as a matter of urgency in the interests of the common good; and to take account of the guiding principles set out in the Court of Appeal including ‘moderate damages for modest injuries’ and proportionality, to produce and publish a new set of personal injuries guidelines by the end of this year."

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