Senator wants fines and jail time for people who make false insurance claims

1 February 2022

Independent Senator Ronan Mullen plans to end the risk-free injuries assessment roulette wheel where lying carries no penalty.

He will move a Bill next week in the Seanad to end the gap where individuals who provide false information to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board do not suffer penalties.

PIAB was established in 2003 to try to divert personal injuries claims away from the courts, reduce legal costs and relieve upward pressure on premiums.

Mr Mullen said: ‘In 2019, a total of 31,500 applications were made to the board and 11,500 awards were made. Approximately 20,000 applications were rejected by PIAB each year for the past several years as being unmeritorious for whatever reason and deserving of no damages.

‘Therefore PIAB rejects well over 60% of all applications each year.

‘Nobody is suggesting all these rejected applications were false or misleading because there can be many factors involved in the rejection of a claim but, given the sheer number of rejected claims, it is difficult to believe all of them were based on the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

‘Since personal injuries actions are regularly rejected by the courts based on false and misleading evidence, there is a likelihood that a substantial proportion of claims rejected were based on allegations that were shown to be false or not wholly true.’

Mr Mullen’s Bill will ensure it will be an offence ‘for a claimant to knowingly or recklessly provide information which is false or misleading in the course of an application to PIAB’. It will carry a fine of up to €3,000, or up to six months in prison.

Mr Mullen said: ‘At present, the PIAB Act 2003, as amended, does not contain any penalties for giving false or misleading information to the PIAB in the course of an application for, or the assessment of a claim for, an award for personal injuries.

The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Act to provide for such penalties, in order to strengthen the integrity of PIAB process by deterring false claims and the use of false information in the defence of genuine claims.

‘It is a remarkable fact that while the PIAB process was intended to be a substitute of sorts for the courts, there appears to be no legal penalty of any kind for making false or misleading statements in an application to the board for a claim of damages. While perjury in a court of law runs the risk of prosecution and a serious penalty, there appears to be no penalty whatsoever in law for making a false or misleading claim to PIAB. The Act 2003 and the very substantial amending Act in 2019 place no positive duty on claimants to tell the truth and do not even contain the words “false”, “misleading” or “truthful”, or any words like them.

‘The result is that somebody can place their lies on the roulette wheel of PIAB without even having to buy a chip.

‘That is extraordinary given the onus of honesty that is correctly placed on applicants to other State agencies.’

The Nursing Homes Support Scheme Act contains stringent provisions against the making of false or misleading claims to the HSE.

There is a penalty of up to three months in prison or a fine of €5,000 for knowingly or recklessly giving false or misleading information.

When dealing with the Revenue Commissioners or the Department of Social Protection, applicants have to make regular and repeated commitments regarding the truth and accuracy of their applications.

Mr Mullen asked: ‘Why on Earth is an applicant of PIAB not required to do likewise given that applicants are often making claims for tens of thousands of euros, or often hundreds of thousands?’

If you would like an assessment of a claim, you can use the online form available here without obligation or alternatively you can use the automatic claim calculator.

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