A senior personal injury lawyer and former president of the Law Society has said insurance firms “are laughing at you all” after a sharp decline in personal injury awards was not matched with a decrease in insurance premiums.
Stuart Gilhooly SC took to Twitter to make the comments in response to an editorial from The Irish Times which suggested that lawyers were encouraging clients to take legal action instead of accepting lower awards from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).
New PIAB figures published this week revealed that its average award had declined by 42 per cent since the introduction of new personal injury guidelines in April 2021.
An editorial in The Irish Times today claims that there has been a “spike of rejections” of PIAB offers due to “claimants believing they could get more by taking their case to court”. It goes on to add: “There are vested interests in propagating this fiction.”
However, in a series of tweets, Mr Gilhooly said: “This lead from Irish Times (which I read & respect) beggars belief. What warped logic could see 47% drop in general damages, 35% drop in claims in last 3 years, only 8.6% drop in premiums and still blame lawyers?!
“Even if a tiny number of extra cases go to court, when they get there there either be no extra costs (if they don’t get more) or any such costs (on a district court level) will be dwarved by the reduction in damages. Do the maths, they aren’t difficult.
“As for the cases challenging the guidelines, it’s a red herring. No solicitor with a brain is advising clients to reject awards in the unlikely event of one of these cases succeeding. Wake up, the insurers are laughing at you all to their offshore banks and capital markets.”
Justice minister Helen McEntee said yesterday that the new personal injury guidelines “have had a clear and significant cost saving impact since their introduction”.
She added: “What’s important now is that the consumer feels the benefit of these savings through reduced insurance costs. My department will continue to assess the impact of the guidelines to ensure that they are having the desired effect.”