The Injuries Board has published its Annual Review for 2012, outlining key statistics relating to personal injury claims in Ireland. The review reveals an on-going upward trend in personal injury claims in this jurisdiction, which the Injuries Board has attributed to an increase in promotion and advertising by claims handling firms. The Injuries Board has expressed concerns about this trend towards an emerging “claims culture” which could affect insurance premiums for motorists and employers, amongst others.

The Injuries Board, formerly known as the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB), was set up under the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Act 2003 to provide victims of workplace, motor and public liability accidents with a means of obtaining compensation without having to go down the costly and time-consuming route of litigation.

28,962 new claims were made to the Injuries Board in 2012, representing an increase of 4.6% from 2011 and 24% from 2007. The increase was largely driven by an increase in motor claims, which increased by 6.7% from 2011 and approximately 33% from 2007. Conversely, however, there has been a significant downward trend in road accidents over the same time period. Equally, work-related claims fell by 1% from 2011, a fall which has been attributed to increased unemployment. Patricia Byron, CEO of the Injuries Board, has commented that the trend coincides with an increase in promotion and advertising by claims handling firms, which is believed to be encouraging individuals to take claims.

By law, it is forbidden for solicitors to advertise with regard to personal injury claims, but this law does not apply to claims handling firms, notwithstanding that they may offer legal services. The Injuries Board believes that this regulatory gap is leading to the emergence of a claims culture, which threatens to drive up premiums and reduce competitiveness. Ms Byron has suggested that the upcoming Legal Services Bill, which will reform the legal sector, provides an opportunity to address this anomaly and extend the prohibition on advertising personal injury claims to include claims handling firms. She has cautioned against following the UK market, where claims handling firms are heavily promoted and as a result claims have increased rapidly in recent years.

Also of note is that the statistics show that the number of awards made has risen almost in proportion to the number of claims. 10,136 awards were made by the Injuries Board in 2012, representing an increase of 3% from 2011 and 23.4% from 2007. The total value of awards made in 2012 was €217.94 million, an increase of 3.9% from 2011 and 20.4% from 2007.

Finally, in 2012 the Injuries Board reduced its fee to respondents, who are typically insurance companies, from €850 to €600.