An independent personal injury assessment body is being considered by the ABI as a solution to the liability crisis.

ABI head of general insurance John Parker said that on a recent visit to Ireland, he had been impressed with the proposals for the Personal Injury Assessment Board (PIAB). This would introduce a system of settling claims without going to court.

The board would be able to award damages according to a book of quantum and claimants' legal costs would be reimbursed on a fixed-fee basis.

The PIAB is still at an interim stage in Ireland, but when it comes into force it should reduce the cost of personal injury claims dramatically, said a spokesman for the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF).

Meanwhile, the ABI is working on the development of a system where health and safety performance is linked to premiums.

Parker said that the ABI was investigating a number of health and safety schemes at present.

He said that the organisation wanted to make sure that schemes could provide underwriters with quantifiable data on performance that allowed them to make informed judgments about whether to offer lower premiums or, in some cases, whether to offer cover at all.

Responding to fears that the government was prevaricating over the liability crisis, Parker said that the industry could expect the government to announce some new streams of work by the end of the month.

The government was due to respond to the liability consultation by the end of April, but failed to do so.

Parker said that the government wanted more detailed information and was likely to undertake a study into legal costs, perhaps using an independent consultant.

What is the PIAB?
Ireland's PIAB was prompted by a crisis in liability cover that was more severe than in the UK and Northern Ireland. Set up by the government's enterprise department, the PIAB would give claimants a way of resolving claims without going to court. The rules governing the PIAB are being drawn up now.

  • It would deal with motor, employer's liability and public liability claims
  • Claimant's costs would be reimbursed on a fixed scale basis
  • Insurers would contribute to the PIAB on a fee per case basis
  • Claims would be settled using a book of quantum backed up by expert analysis
  • Both parties would agree to an independent medical expert to assess the claimant
  • If an offer of rehabilitation was refused, then the board would take this into account in making an award
  • The PIAB would specify disclosure and timetable rules
  • A negotiated settlement must be attempted before consulting the PIAB.