Tuesday, 26 November 2019

Ceisteanna (168)

Niamh Smyth


168. Deputy Niamh Smyth asked the Minister for Finance if the case of a person (details supplied) will be reviewed; the measures he is taking to curb insurance fraud; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [48969/19]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Finance)

At the outset, the Deputy should note that it would not be appropriate for me, as Minister for Finance, to comment on individual cases such as the one she refers to in the details supplied.

In relation to the Deputy’s question regarding measures being taken to curb insurance fraud, I would note that the Cost of Insurance Working Group (CIWG) examined this issue as part of its review of both motor and employer and public liability insurance and made recommendations aimed at addressing this problem.  

In this respect, the CIWG made recommendations to strengthen the powers of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) around compliance with its procedures, and this was achieved through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019.  In addition, it recommended amendments to Sections 8 and 14 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004 to make it easier for businesses and insurers to challenge cases where fraud or exaggeration is suspected.  The changes provide that a letter of claim stating the nature of the wrong alleged must be provided to an alleged wrongdoer by a claimant who intends to pursue a claim for damages for personal injuries “one month from the date of the cause of action”.  Previously, the period for issuing this letter was “two months from the date of the cause of action, or as soon as practicable thereafter.” If a claimant does not issue a letter within the first month (without a valid reason), the court “shall” draw inferences from this and penalise the plaintiff as to costs. These changes were brought in to help tackle fraud and exaggerated claims, but also to align the law with GDPR requirements (e.g. deletion of CCTV footage).  These amendments were made as part of the Central Bank (National Claims Information Database) Act 2018.

I believe that one of the key achievements of the CIWG is increased coordination and cooperation between An Garda Síochána and the insurance industry with regard to tackling fraud.  This includes the reporting of suspected fraud, as well as to how that fraud is recorded on the PULSE system.  There has also been recent successes under Operation Coatee, which targets insurance-related criminality.  In addition, Garda Commissioner Drew Harris has decided for operational reasons to investigate insurance fraud at the divisional level, rather than establish a centralised insurance investigation unit, which may not be in a position to investigate incidents at a local level to the same extent.  This approach is aligned with a general divisional-focused Garda model and the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau (GNECB) will guide divisions and provide training in the investigation of insurance fraud.

I might conclude by saying that since the CIWG started its  work in 2016, I believe that many insurers are taking a much more robust approach to challenging questionable claims.  This can be seen in recent media reports detailing personal injuries cases which have been dismissed by the courts after extensive investigations surrounding the circumstances of the claim.  This trend is encouraging in terms of tackling the problem of dubious or exaggerated claims from the personal injuries litigation system.