Advisory board could replace Irish Circuit Court in personal injury cases

Irish insurers have developed a radical solution to one of the chief drivers behind its employers' liability (EL) crisis.

A litigation-loving culture, spurred on by no-win, no-fee advertising has been blamed for rocketing claims costs.

However, the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF) has sent a consultation paper to the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment (DETE) implementation group, outlining a proposed shape for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB).

The IIF said the ambitious proposals would "eliminate the inefficiencies" in personal injury litigation.

The proposals include the establishment of a rehabilitation code of practice and a book of quantum.

The PIAB was first mooted at least a year ago and given further impetus as a key recommendation on the recent Motor Insurance Advisory Board report.

IIF chief executive Michael Kemp said the speedy introduction of the PIAB was vital to reduce claims costs.

Under IIF proposals, the PIAB would handle all motor, EL and public liability injury claims. It would issue contributory negligence rules so settlements could be processed without all disputed cases being submitted to the board.

The IIF said the PIAB would cut insurers' legal costs from an annual €440m (£276m) to €220m (£138.4m).

"Claimants' legal representation costs will be reimbursed on a fixed scale basis - there will be no requirement for insurers to have legal protection," Kemp said.

"The PIAB will replace the Circuit Court in personal injury cases and have a jurisdiction level of €100,000 (£62, 814)."

The IIF proposed that insurers contribute to the PIAB's running costs on a fee-per-case basis.

The PIAB would specify disclosure and timetable rules and ensure the consistency of awards, backed by the book of quantum.

Both parties in any claim would have to agree to an assessment with an independent medical expert, with any refusal of rehabilitation taken into account when awards were set.

The implementation group, which will oversee the establishment of the PIAB, is expected to report back to the department in the autumn.

The IIF's submission is said to be the most substantial received by the group as yet and is likely to be influential on the group's report.