A full meeting of the Judicial Council has concluded without any decision being taken on draft new personal injury award guidelines.

The issue was discussed at this morning's meeting of the 166 judges.

The council is to give further consideration to the matter again when it meets on 20 February.

It has not said why a decision was not made today.

However, it is understood some members of the judiciary felt they needed more time to consider the proposals.

The guidelines are eagerly anticipated by insurance reform campaigners who hope that, if adopted, will lead to a recalibration in the level of damages that can be awarded to claimants involved in personal injury cases.

They were drawn up by the council's Personal Injuries Committee, following a detailed analysis of the issue and were submitted to the council's board before Christmas.

Insurance reform campaigners are seeking an 80% cut in the level of personal injury awards being granted by the courts for minor injuries.

They think this will help significantly in reducing the cost of insurance, particularly public and employers' liability cover.

A cut of this size would bring the compensation in line with that being awarded by courts in England and Wales, but still leave it above that awarded in other European countries.

But the Alliance for Insurance Reform has expressed concerns at reports on Independent.ie that the Judicial Council is tending towards the adoption of guidelines that would reflect those in the Green Book, Northern Ireland's personal injuries guidelines.

"Such a development would be unlikely to lead to meaningful reductions in the cost of personal injury claims and hence insurance, unless it came hand-in-hand with wholesale reform of the Irish legal system," said Peter Boland, Director of the Alliance.

"Otherwise, using the Green Book as a reference point would be the status quo masquerading as reform."

The Judicial Council proposals have to be adopted by 31 July at the latest, replacing the current Book of Quantum guidelines that is used to calculate the size of awards.

Compensation is the single-biggest element of the cost of insurance according to the Cost of Insurance Working Group, the Personal Injuries Commission and the Central Bank's National Claims Information Database, the Alliance for Insurance Reform has said.

General damages for minor injuries account for the vast bulk of compensation payouts.

The Government's Personal Injuries Commission report revealed that the average compensation award for whiplash injuries is approximately 4.4 times higher than in Britain.

Insurers have said that if the Judicial Council reduces the level of personal injury awards it will cut the cost of premiums.

Nineteen State reports over recent years have highlighted the need for insurance reform.

The Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council was given six months from its establishment to prepare and submit to the council's board draft Personal Injuries Guidelines.

It must also review those guidelines from time to time.