Croke Park Conference Centre, 9.00am, 10 April 2019
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Good Morning, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I am very pleased to be here to open the first PIAB Conference on “The Evolving Personal Injuries Landscape in Ireland”.
In 2004, the Personal Injuries Assessment Board was established as an alternative to litigation through the courts system.
And I am very pleased to see that 15 years later, the PIAB model is still delivering cost savings in the claims environment.
The high cost of insurance is something that the Government is acutely aware of - and we are prioritising taking action to address the issue.
As Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation, I am very aware of the serious impacts of high insurance costs on businesses and consumers.
I also understand that Ireland’s companies - big and small, indigenous and foreign-owned - all rely on the availability and affordability of insurance, along with labour, property, energy and cost of credit.
Ultimately, tackling the high costs of cover requires a whole-of-Government approach so, in 2016, the Cost of Insurance Working Group was set up, chaired by the Minister of State for Financial Services and Insurance, and made up of the relevant Government Departments and Agencies, including my own Department and PIAB.
The group was tasked with examining the factors contributing to the increasing cost of insurance, and identifying measures that could be introduced to help reduce this cost, while maintaining a financially-stable insurance sector.
They produced two reports with 48 recommendations, and over 100 actions.
One of the key recommendations was the establishment, by my Department, of a Personal Injuries Commission to bring forward proposals on processes in other jurisdictions that could enhance the claims process in Ireland, and to benchmark Ireland’s personal injury awards against other countries.
This challenging task was completed in 18 months under the skilled leadership of Mr Justice Nicholas Kearns, and with expert input from a range of stakeholders, including PIAB.
The Personal Injuries Commission has made a total of 14 recommendations across its two Reports, and work on their implementation is being progressed.
Following receipt of the Second and Final Report - which makes ten recommendations aimed at positively impacting the overall Irish claims environment - I wrote to the relevant Departments and Agencies seeking co-operation in advancing implementation.
One of the recommendations is that the Judicial Council, when established, is requested by the Minister for Justice to put together Judicial Guidelines for appropriate general damages, for various types of personal injury.
I understand that Justice Kearns will be speaking today, and I am sure that he will elaborate more on the exceptional work of the Personal Injuries Commission.
Complementing the work of the Commission, the Cost of Insurance Working Group also recommended amending the Personal Injuries Assessment Board legislation to ensure greater compliance with the PIAB process, and encourage more claims to be settled through the model.
The new legislation came into effect a week ago, on 3rd April, and will address issues including non-cooperation or non-attendance at medicals, and failure to provide details of special damages or loss of earnings.
Encouraging more claimants to finalise their cases through the PIAB model - rather than resorting to litigation - should lead to cost savings in the claims environment.
This is good for everyone, as it delivers compensation more quickly, with lower costs and predictable outcomes.
In tandem with the measures being taken by officials in my Department, my colleagues across Government are working hard to progress recommendations of both the Cost of Insurance Working Group and the Personal Injuries Commission.
Legislation to set up the National Claims Information Database was enacted in December 2018, and this should provide transparent claims information going forward.
In addition, An Garda Síochána and insurers have agreed a protocol for the reporting of suspected fraudulent personal injury claims.
This enhanced cooperation is extremely important in the context of tackling personal injury fraud.
A key conclusion of the Cost of Insurance Working Group was that there was no single policy or legislative “silver bullet” to immediately address the problem of rapidly rising insurance premiums.
However, I believe that the cumulative effect of the recommendations from the two reports of the Personal Injuries Commission, the measures in the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (Amendment) Act 2019, and the ongoing, complementary work of the Cost of Insurance Working Group, should lead to a better-functioning personal injuries claims environment in the future.
This, in turn, will benefit consumers, businesses and wider society.
In conclusion, I am delighted to see such a diverse range of stakeholders gathered here today.
I hope you have a fruitful discussion and a productive morning, hearing from the engaging line-up of speakers, who will provide us all with “food for thought” on the evolving personal injuries landscape in Ireland.
Go raibh mile maith agaibh.