The Tanaiste and Minister for Enterprise Trade & Employment, Mary Harney, has signed an order which will make the new Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) operational from midnight tonight.

The board has been introduced to eliminate the need for litigation in compensation claims. Initially it will deal with employer's liability claims, but is expected to be dealing with public liability and motor insurance cases by the autumn.

The role of the PIAB is to decide on compensation for claims where the legal issues are not disputed by the respondent. If the parties do not accept the outcome of the PIAB assessment they may reject the award and the claimant will be allowed to pursue their case through the courts.

The Tanaiste said that 'certain vested interests' has sought to use misinformation and scare tactics to delay or prevent the introduction of the PIAB.

'There is no doubt that many members of the legal profession earn significant income from the handling of personal injuries cases and I don't deny that much of that income will be lost,' Minister Harney said.

'But I haven't done this to penalise lawyers. I have done it to benefit genuine accident victims and ultimately all those who have been paying excessive insurance premiums for far too long.'

The cost of PIAB will be covered by fees levied on respondents, on a case-by-case basis, reflecting the complexity of the work involved.