Personal Injury and Assessment Board figures show better service than litigation

The Irish body set up to speed up personal injury compensation payments claimed this week that it is settling claims three times faster and four times cheaper than through litigation.

The Personal Injuries and Assessment Board (PIAB) figures show it achieved this without cutting the level of compensation provided to claimants.

Figures from its 2005 annual report showed that the PIAB delivered compensation within nine months - against three years through litigation.

The average cost of processing claims was 10% of a claimant's award, compared to 46% in the case of a litigated settlement. The PIAB also said most of the legal profession was now working with it "wholeheartedly".

The body was set up as part of the Irish Government's plan to tackle rising insurance costs.

Patricia Byron, PIAB chief executive, said: "The fact of PIAB's existence and its consistent performance in providing a more cost effective and quicker process has led to a major change in the redress culture. We are finding, for example, that many claims notified to us through our Lo Call number, are being settled right away between the parties."

In 2004, a total of 35,000 writs were issued in respect of personal injury cases to the high and circuit courts. This figure dropped to 4,000 in 2005 following the inception of PIAB.

Byron said: "This shows that much fewer (claims) are going to court with its attendant trauma and cost."

The figures also show that the cost of processing claims is being fully met by the charges PIAB levies.

However, some lawyers have voiced concerns. Martin Bare, a partner with Morrish & Co, raised fears that cases were going uncompensated.

He said: "There were 4,000 cases litigated and 3,951 assessments made since PIAB's inception in 2005. In 2004, 35,000 cases were litigated. What happened to the other 30,000 cases? Are these going to be uncompensated?"