The adoption of the new personal injury guidelines by the Judicial Council and their subsequent commencement in April this year is a significant achievement. It was achieved eight months ahead of the schedule as originally intended.
The new guidelines should provide much greater transparency around award levels, in addition to reducing payouts for many common injuries and leading to lower legal fees by encouraging greater use of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board, PIAB, to settle claims. Accordingly, this should lead to a reduction in claims costs for insurers, shorter settlement times for claimants and, importantly, help to attract new entrants into the Irish market and encourage providers that previously exited the market to return. Work being undertaken by my Department's office to promote competition in the insurance market, in conjunction with IDA Ireland, will seek to leverage support in this area.
As the Deputy knows, consistent implementation of the guidelines by insurers, PIAB and the Judiciary will be vital in achieving an improved claims environment. These are early days in terms of assessing the impact of the guidelines. As the insurance reform agenda progresses, we will continue to seek that the industry meet its commitment to reflect savings from the guidelines and other elements of the ambitious reform agenda in the prices offered to customers. In my ongoing engagement with the sector, I have emphasised the need for insurance providers to reduce premiums and increase their risk appetite to provide cover in new areas. I am engaging with the main insurers again this month, with meetings commencing next Monday on a one-by-one basis, to assess their response to the guidelines. They have had sufficient time now to come up with a concrete response and I will be emphasising the importance, when settling claims, of their not undermining the guidelines by settling for amounts that are inconsistent with them.
Another valuable tool the Government has in holding insurers accountable to their commitments is the national claims information database, NCID, which allows us to monitor both claims costs and pricing trends. To date, the database has published two comprehensive reports on the private motor insurance sector and one on employer and public liability insurance. The reports include data on legal costs, settlement channels and all the other elements that impact on the overall cost of insurance premiums.