– Opinion piece in Law Society Gazette suggests Personal Injuries Commission stats on Irish personal injuries awards were incorrect or flawed.
– Gazette contradicts PIC figures on damages.
– Gazette contradicts PIC findings that awards levels are a material factor in the levels of insurance premiums.
– ISME is warning that if we go through two more years of delay awaiting damages guidelines from the Judicial Council there will be political hell to pay.
The all-out assault by the legal lobby on the Personal Injuries Commission (PIC) and its final report continues in the Law Society Gazette this month.
In August, the Gazette published a piece (‘Crash Test Dummies’), authored by a prominent, retired UCC economist, which suggested that the PIC statistics on Irish personal injuries awards were incorrect or flawed.
The most fundamental contradiction of the PIC figures was the suggestion that damages for minor injuries were a multiple of 1.55 times those applying in the UK, not the multiple of 4.4 times found by the PIC.
One wonders why the services of this prominent, retired UCC economist were not used by the Law Society during the course of their deliberations, and why they concurred unanimously with the PIC’s final report last year.
This month’s dramatic missive from the Law Society Gazette (‘In The Trenches’) is accompanied by a stock photograph of German soldiers ‘going over the top’ in World War I. It states archly ‘All the evidence suggests that damages awards levels play no substantial role in the calculation of premiums.’ This assertion, unsupported by any data, is another utter contradiction of the unanimous view adopted by the PIC that awards levels were a material factor in the levels of insurance premiums in Ireland.
Even more comically, the Law Society scribe suggests that the timeline set for the Judicial Council to redraw personal injuries award guidelines is ‘highly optimistic’ and suggests that the Judicial Council Act was passed with ‘undue haste.’
Considering the fact the legal lobby ensured the Legal Services Regulatory Act was the most amended (and watered down) piece of primary legislation ever passed by Dáil Éireann, it’s not hard to understand why lawyers feel that any legislation threatening the size of the personal injuries goldmine is objectionable.
The level of personal injuries awards in Ireland is a material element in the cost of insurance. It drives fee income earned by lawyers, especially those who operate on a no-foal no-fee basis. That much is obvious to everyone.
The Law Society suggests that Sec 51A of the revised PIAB Act could be unconstitutional in its application. We’ll take that with the same pinch of salt with which we greet the ‘no negligence no claim’ canard from the legal lobbyists.
A constitutional issue is likely to arise on the issue of revised damages, but not from the quarter the Law Society’s opinion writer thinks. ISME’s legal advices are that the reframing of quantum levels for personal injuries by the Judicial Council, unless it is done in the loosest, most non-directive manner, could breach the constitutional separation of powers, which asserts the rights of the Oireachtas as the sole law-making body in the country. The Chief Justice warned the Justice Minister of this issue in his letter to him last February.
If this proves to be the case, and the Judicial Council can do no more than politely advise judges from the sidelines what damages should be, one wonders why we are taking so long to enact a non-solution.
We hope the Government is taking notice. The courtesy extended to the legal lobby in granting them representation on the Personal Injuries Commission is being repaid with misdirection, spin and deception.
On behalf of members, non-members and citizens alike, ISME is warning that if we go through two more years of delay awaiting damages guidelines from the Judicial Council, which are shot down by the Supreme Court as unconstitutional, there will be political hell to pay.