Patricia Byron explains how the Personal Injury Assessment Board has changed Irish claims

The theme emerging from speakers of the day was that the insurance industry should avoid enforced legislation by tackling the compensation issue as a unique force.

But in Ireland government intervention has created a new system for claims. Patricia Byron spoke to delegates about how the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) has worked to the advantage of Irish claimants.

She drew parallels between UK problems and the problems which the Irish market faced pre-legislation, focusing on complicated processes, lengthy time lines, high litigation costs and sometimes, depending on the jurisdictions, unnecessary litigation.

Ireland had reached crisis point with insurance costs soaring, she said. A report by the PIAB found 90% of cases didn't involve legal or liability issues and more than 80% of the claims were settled ultimately. A new streamlined system needed to be created, she said.

Initiatives were brought in under the Department of Transport designed to change attitudes on road safety, speeding and drunk driving. And the Department of Enterprise Trading and Employment created the PIAB.

"What we do is really direct those claims into appropriate channels, so where litigation is appropriate, where there are contentious issues, where there are complex issues that do need to be teased out and where the legal minds need to be brought to bear, we release those into the courts system," she said.

According to Byron, originally claimants would go to a solicitor with a potential claim, and proceedings were issued. This would evolve into a "lengthy mystifying" process ending with a mass of complaints against the system.

The board transformed that process. The PIAB is expected to act on behalf of all those involved with claims process. At the centre of that process are the expectations of the claimant. Byron said under the Act the PIAB has an obligation to deliver a settlement within nine months, and as a result delivery costs have been driven down.

"We have come across a simple and effective resolution, time-bound, which is driving satisfied customers," she said.

"Our objectives are simple. We assess the value, the quantum and jargon of personal injury claims. We reduce the cost of delivering money from A to B and we reduce the time it takes to get that money from A to B."

The PIAB has also invested heavily in technology, Byron said: "It has been very important to us, we use cutting edge technology and we're always open to keeping abreast of all developments on that front.

"We must be open to the public to take in the claims in any shape or form."

Patricia Byron is chief executive of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board

Patricia Byro

Key point

  • Crisis as insurance costs soared
  • Report found that 90% of claims did not involve the legal system
  • Personal Injury Assessment Board created
  • Claimant is put at centre of system
  • Obligation to settle within nine months
  • Investment in technology vital
  • Topics