As the Deputy is aware, the Second and Final Report of the Personal Injuries Commission made recommendations aimed at positively impacting the overall Irish personal injury claims environment. One of these recommendations refers to the Judicial Council, on establishment, compiling guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury and further recommends that, in the event of any delay to the establishment of the Judicial Council, as a contingency arrangement, a formal framework, inclusive of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), should be established to enable the judiciary to complete guidelines in advance of the renewal deadlines for the next Book of Quantum.
I would like to inform the Deputy that the Judicial Council Bill 2017, which provides for the establishment of the Judicial Council, is a legislative priority for the Government and my intention is to make significant progress towards the enactment of the Bill by the end of this year. Once established, it is my intention to request the Judicial Council to compile guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury.
With regard to the interim position pending the establishment of the Judicial Council, my Department is currently examining options in that regard and will report to me shortly. As the Deputy will appreciate a number of stakeholders who would be involved in any possible interim arrangement will have to be consulted in that regard.
As the Deputy will be aware, the Cost of Insurance Working Group was established by the Minister for Finance in July 2016 and is chaired by Minister of State, Michael D'Arcy TD. The objective of the Working Group is to identify and examine the drivers of the cost of insurance, and recommend short, medium and longer term measures to address the issue of increasing insurance costs, taking account of the requirement for the need to ensure a financially stable insurance sector.
Among the significant themes addressed by the Working Group in its reports, which are available with action updates on the Department of Finance website, are improving the personal injuries litigation framework and reviewing the level of damages in personal injury cases.
In addition to the establishment of the Personal Injuries Commission, the Working Group has also made a number of other recommendations in the field of personal injuries, including:
- the Law Reform Commission to be requested to undertake a detailed analysis of the possibility of developing constitutionally sound legislation to delimit or cap the amounts of damages which a court may award in respect of some or all categories of personal injuries,
- the amendment of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 to ensure that defendants are notified of a claim been lodged against them and to improve the use and effectiveness of provisions relating to the verifying affidavit,
- facilitating training and information supports for the judiciary in relation to the assessment of damages in personal injury cases,
- tackling fraudulent or exaggerated personal injury claims, in particular, through a renewed focus on the reporting of suspected fraudulent claims to An Garda Síochána.