The goal of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) is to have more and more cases dealt with through their auspices, the annual Law Society litigation conference heard today (4 November).
However, Stuart Gilhooly SC told the conference that PIAB is “going about this the wrong way,” because they give awards which are far too low, in his view.
Since the formation of PIAB, there has been a big drop in litigated claims, down 7% to 31,000 in 2019, and down to 26,000 in 2020 (16% drop), Gilhooly said.
However, the acceptable rate for claims is now at 41%, down from 51% previously.
Gilhooly expressed surprise that the acceptance rate is as high as it is.
“We will see whether they continue at this level or whether they show a bit more common sense, in terms of the level of awards,” Gilhooly said.
His clients are “distinctly unimpressed” with the level of awards they receive, he added.
Given the low level of awards, fees cannot remain as they were and must necessarily be less than previously, Gilhooly said.
“If you are getting an award of €5,000, the days of charging €1,500 for that are gone,” he said.
PIAB is also planning to introduce a mediation system, like the operations of the Financial Ombudsman, Gilhooly said.
It’s a very unsatisfactory situation,” he said, warning that GPs may refuse to accept PIAB cases, given the low levels of pay.
Those cases may end up with specialists, he said.
“Clients have to leave your office feeling that their claim was worthwhile,” he added.
“It’s probably going to be a written system, but we don’t know whether it’s going to be mandatory, that if the respondent agrees to mediation, then everyone has to do it,” Gilhooly said.
Mandatory mediation will require legislation, he noted.
And the Supreme Court’s ability to hear a constitutional challenge on the matter of personal injury guidelines throws up an interesting question, given that the Judicial Council, consisting of all judges, voted in the new guidelines.