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Insurance Reform Stalled.

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90% of whiplash patients stopped pain management treatment once legal actions were completed.
ISME delighted to hear Court of Appeal ordered rehearing of case against Sligo county Council.
ISME asked Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to amend Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995.
Of real concern is that progress on whiplash awards will not happen for up to two years.

The second week of October was meant to be about the Budget and Brexit, but we unexpectedly learned a great deal about why insurance reform has stalled.

On Monday, the Irish Times revealed that 90% of whiplash patients attending the pain management clinic in the Mater Hospital stopped treatment once their legal actions were completed. Not alone that, but the legally-induced malingering used to justify higher compensation awards was leading to family distress, job loss, and in some cases opiate addiction.

That evening, a legal lobby spokesman took to the national airwaves, spinning ferociously to the effect that the neurosurgeons who reported the story had no medical understanding of whiplash, and the 90% figure merely indicated how successful the pain clinic was in curing its patients.

Later in the week, ISME was delighted to hear that the Court of Appeal ordered a rehearing of a case taken against Sligo county Council, in which a man was awarded €105,000 by Mr Justice Anthony Barr after slipping on tiles on the front porch of his own local authority home, having consumed five pints of beer.

Justice Barr refused to make any adverse findings against the plaintiff for the fact that he had consumed alcohol, or for the fact that he had lived in the house for nine years.

This really was a farcical case, and did the judiciary no favours in the manner in which the legitimate defences of the local authority were dismissed by the judge.

This same judge awarded a woman over €90,000 for a dislocated thumb after slipping on a bar floor in four-inch heels, €25,000 to a woman stuck in a lift in Tallaght shopping Centre for a few minutes, €32,000 to a woman who slipped on a floor in a play centre, and €52,000 to a woman who fell off her horse in Castle Leslie.

Aside from the questionable quantum involved in these cases, what is important about them is the very strict interpretation of the duty of care by the owners or operators of premises. For this reason, amendment of the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1995 is absolutely essential, and ISME has asked Justice Minister Charlie Flanagan to amend it as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, despite assurances from Minister Flanagan that there will be progress on whiplash awards early in the new year, remarks by the Chief Justice suggest this will not happen for up to two years. ISME has a real concern that some of our members will be out of business long before then.