The Personal Injuries Assessment Board has said it is astonished by a High Court judgment which has found that its policy of dealing directly with clients is outside its powers.

The Chief Executive of the Board said the judgment did not affect a significant proportion of the claims currently being handled.

Patricia Byron said it affected those who choose to engage a solicitor. In these cases, she said, PIAB has been directed to communicate with solicitors and will do so.

However, Ms Byron emphasised that solicitor costs would not be awarded by PIAB.

The Chairman of the Bar Council said the judgment highlighted flaws in the PIAB legislation, particularly the lack of equality between the parties and the practice of interfering with the lawyer-client relationship.

Hugh Mohan SC said the Council had brought this weakness to the attention of Government, both before the legislation and since.

The High Court found that the policy of the Board of dealing directly with clients rather than through their solicitors is outside the powers conferred on it by legislation.

The challenge to the policy was taken by a Co Offaly meat boner. The Law Society was also a party to the proceedings.

Mr Justice McMenamin found that the relevant section of the legislation establishing the PIAB did not contain a specific power enabling it to adopt a procedure of bypassing a client's solicitor.

He said the right to legal representation and the lawyer/client relationship exist in the common good, and help to guarantee equality in litigation and the maintenance of fairness between the strong and the weak.

The Law Society had argued that the issue of the PIAB's entitlement to disregard written authorisation of an applicant to communicate solely with their solicitor goes to the heart of the solicitor/client relationship, and the ability of a solicitor to represent his or her client.