The courts service annual report shows that the number of new cases at the High Court rose by 20% last year.

Contributing to this increased workload was a 350% increase in new personal injuries cases, which came to court despite the development of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.

The PIAB was established in 2004 with the aim of allowing certain classes of personal injury claim to be settled without the need for the costs associated with litigation.

The PIAB today defended its effectiveness, attributing the 350% figure to a realignment of people leaving the legal system to use the PIAB instead.

Chief executive, Patricia Byron, said before the PIAB was set up, the High and Circuit courts dealt with 33,000 personal injuries cases a year.

That figure fell to just 4,000 in 2005, the first year of the PIAB's existence, before rising to 10,000 last year as the two systems realigned, she said.

She said the PIAB had now taken over the bulk of the volume from the court's system and expects the situation to stabilise.

Further evidence of its success, she said, could be seen in the fact that the PIAB would make awards totalling €68m this year, compared to the €38m that the courts made last year.

PIAB said today it processes claims over three times faster (7.4 months versus three years) and up to 70% cheaper than through the Courts.

From 2008, it expects to deliver €100m in awards each year, resulting in annual savings in the associated processing costs of €40m per annum.