Limerick received proportionally more awards at the Personal Injuries Assessment Board than any other county in Ireland over the ten-year period from 2007 to 2016, an analysis from RTÉ Investigates has found.

The analysis was part of a RTÉ Investigates project related to personal injury claims in Ireland and their associated costs.

The data showed that residents of Limerick received 388 awards at the Injuries Board per 10,000 people during this time, more than three times the number of the lowest county, Kilkenny, which received just 122 awards. 

The average number of awards for all counties was 207.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) decides the value of a personal injury claim where liability is undisputed. The majority of claims taken to the PIAB relate to alleged road traffic collisions.

It records the number of awards issued annually, by county, which RTÉ Investigates collated for the 10 years from 2007 and then adjusted per head of population.

The analysis shows dramatic variations county to county, suggesting that in certain counties, a claims culture is particularly prevalent.

And while some of those differences can be explained by a county's level of urbanisation or its road safety record, this wasn't the case for all counties.

Other counties with high numbers of awards at the Injuries Board included Longford (352), Louth (319), Dublin (244), followed by Tipperary (230).

Councils' claims bill of €387m

RTÉ Investigates also gathered data relating to compensation payments made on behalf of local authorities from 2012 to the first half of 2017, through freedom of information. This showed that compensation claims cost - at a very conservative estimate - around €387m during this time.

Most local authority compensation claims relate to public liability, which can include trips on footpaths, as well as accidents in public amenities. 

The local authority with the highest number of claims received (per 100,000 people) was Dublin City Council, on 1,024 claims, followed by Limerick City and County Council (923), Waterford City and County Council (821). 

Those local authorities are all city councils, with higher population densities and footfalls. 

But the fourth highest local authority in per capita terms was Longford County Council, which covers quite a rural area. It received 780 claims per 100,000 people.

Seamus Butler, a Fianna Fáil councillor on Longford County Council, said he was not surprised by this. "There has been a long history of claims in Longford," he said.  

People in Longford are also far more likely to lodge footpath related claims than in many other local authorities.

There were 120 such claims lodged (per 100,000 people) over the three years from July 2014. This compared to only 15 in Laois, meaning Longford County Council was almost eight times as likely to receive a footpath-related compensation claim as Laois County Council.

This is despite Laois being a more urban county than Longford.

A Longford County Council spokeswoman said that it has allocated "a significant amount of capital monies to the upgrading of footpaths" and that it expects to see a reduction in the amount of claims it receives.

Meanwhile, RTÉ Investigates has spoken to over a dozen business owners who told of their frustrations arising from compensation culture and higher insurance premiums. 

One Limerick retailer said he has received around four or five claims annually for the last five years. Prior to that, he received one or two a year.  

The insurance industry has also complained about the expansion of personal injury litigation in recent years and the size of associated awards, which it alleges is out of kilter with other European countries.

But Ken Murphy, the director general of the Law Society, the representative body for solicitors, said: "The propaganda perpetrated by the insurance industry [means] that many entirely genuine injury victims have been reluctant to bring a claim for fear of being stigmatised."

He added that accident victims have "no collective voice or well-funded lobby to represent them in this one-sided so-called debate."