While neither I, nor the Central Bank of Ireland, can interfere in the provision or pricing of insurance products, the Government, through the work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) Reports, has identified the key problems that need to be addressed if we are to significantly reduce the cost of business insurance.
In this regard, the work of the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) has been of critical importance. It found that the level of awards here for soft tissue injuries were 4.4 times higher than England and Wales. Such a discrepancy is in my view unjustified and needs to be addressed as a matter of urgency. It recommended that the Judiciary should be made responsible for recalibrating award levels.
With the passage of the Judicial Council Act, I am confident that the Judiciary will prioritise this recalibration exercise and that they will take account of the PIC’s findings. I would also note that the Law Reform Commission is currently undertaking a detailed analysis as to whether we could establish constitutionally sound legislation to cap or limit the amount of damages a court may award. It is due to report back next year.
In respect of measures to address false or exaggerated claims, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019, strengthens the powers of PIAB around compliance with its procedures, and amendments to Sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, make it easier for businesses and insurers to challenge cases where fraud or exaggeration is suspected. There have also been various reforms of how fraud is reported to and dealt with by An Garda Síochána, including increased co-ordination with the insurance industry. In addition, the recent decision by the Garda Commissioner to develop a divisional focus on insurance fraud which will be guided by the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau, which will also train Gardaí all over the country on investigating insurance fraud is an important step forward.
In conclusion, I would like to assure the Deputy that important reforms are taking place and that I am confident that if the level of awards are reduced then the insurance cost and coverage issues that are being experienced by businesses should recede.