Warning of higher insurance premiums if claims culture not addressed

Tuesday 26 March 2013 22.18
The Injuries Board said there had been a consistent upward trend in injury claims
The Injuries Board said there had been a consistent upward trend in injury claims

Personal injury claims increased by almost 5% last year, according to the latest annual review by the Injuries Board.

The board is warning that consumers and businesses could face higher insurance premiums if what it calls an "emerging claims culture" is not addressed.

The board was set up in 2004 to assess personal injury claims and makes awards relating to motor, employer and public liability accidents, without the need for lengthy and expensive litigation.

It saw compensation awards increase by 3.9% to €218m last year and there has been an increase of almost 25% since 2007.

Motor claims alone have jumped by over 33% in the last five years.

The board said this "steady" and "consistent" upward trend comes at a time when Irish roads "have never been safer" and fewer people are at work.

It is concerned the increase coincides with what it says is a significant jump in promotion and advertising by claims handling companies.

The board said lessons can be learnt from the UK market, where claims handling services are heavily promoted and where whiplash claims have increased by 60% since 2006.

Speaking on RTÉ's Morning Ireland, Injuries Board Chief Executive Patricia Byron said that there is a gap in the law, meaning solicitors are restricted from promoting their services but claims-handling firms can do so with impunity.

She said: "There has been a significant increase in claims promotion for personal injuries claims and in particular in the online space.

"Now there is a ban on advertising, it is illegal for solicitors to advertise for personal injury claims but what we see are claims companies emerging and sourcing this business.

"Now obviously they are sourcing it for somebody and these companies housed by solicitors who are not practising, or by lawyers who are not practising solicitors and claims handlers, these are not subject to that ban."