Categories: Press Releases

by Brian Hanley

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PRESS RELEASE

31 July 2023

  • Alliance for Insurance Reform launches its Enough is Enough campaign to mark the commencement of legislation rebalancing the duty of care between occupiers and the public.
  • “The new legislation will only work if it is implemented in the spirit it was intended by the judiciary, insurers, the legal profession, and ultimately, by the Irish public.”
  • Unjustifiable personal injury claims are made where there is no negligence. It is often assumed that these claims are victimless, with insurance companies picking up the bill. The reality is that insurers simply pass the cost on to policyholders – voluntary and community groups, charities, sports and cultural organisations, small businesses and the State.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform welcomes the commencement of legislation aimed at rebalancing the duty of care between occupiers and the public. Speaking today, Alliance Board member and CEO of the Federation of Irish Sport, Mary O’Connor said: “The legislation rebalances the duty of care in a way that is fair, practical and proportionate. The new legislation will only work if it is implemented in the spirit it was intended by the judiciary, insurers, the legal profession, and ultimately, by the Irish public.”

So tomorrow the Alliance is launching its ‘ENOUGH IS ENOUGH’ campaign, calling for an end to unjustifiable personal injury claims that are damaging Irish society. The Alliance recognises the importance of a robust personal injury system to compensate those who have been injured due to the negligence of others in a way that is fair and proportionate. That is why liability insurance is there.

Too often however, unjustifiable personal injury claims are made where there is no negligence. It is often assumed that these claims are victimless, with insurance companies picking up the bill. The reality is that insurers simply pass the cost on to policyholders – voluntary and community groups, charities, sports and cultural organisations, small businesses and the State – who also spend enormous amounts of time and effort defending such claims.

Alliance Board member and owner of Kidspace play centres in Rathfarnham and Rathcoole, Tracy Sheridan, said: “Every person at one time or another has heard a story of somebody getting compensation and our reaction had been that what happened was entirely their own fault. These awards come at a cost in the form of higher insurance premiums. As a society we need to say ‘stop’, as unwarranted claims are not a victimless pursuit.”

That is one of the main reasons Ireland pays many multiples of other countries in insurance costs and it undermines the fabric of Irish society. This is not sustainable and the road we need to travel is clear:

  • Unjustifiable personal injury claims must stop.
  • Lawyers must stop facilitating them.
  • Doctors and other experts must stop facilitating them.
  • Insurers must stop settling them. Settling dubious claims in a stable insurance market may be justifiable, but not in a reforming market like Ireland, where continuing to settle will undermine the reforms.
  • The Judiciary must interpret the new legislation in the spirit in which it was intended by the Legislature.

Justice Minister, Helen McEntee said “These measures strike a new and reasonable balance between the responsibilities of the owner or operator of a premises to keep their customers and visitors safe, and what individuals themselves must do when entering a business, club or community building for example. The passage of this legislation marks an important step in our efforts to make insurance more available and cheaper.”[1]

From the perspective of voluntary and community groups, charities, sports and cultural organisations as well as small businesses, the message is clear: Enough is Enough!

—ENDS—

FOR FURTHER INFORMATION CONTACT: contact@insurancereform.ie or Alliance CEO, Brian Hanley at 086 8620 974.

Notes:

  1. The Alliance for Insurance Reform brings together 48 civic and business organisations from across Ireland, representing over 55,000 members, 700,000 employees, 614,000 volunteers and 374,000 students in highlighting the negative impact of persistently high premiums and calling for real reforms that will quickly reduce liability and motor insurance premiums to affordable levels and keep them that way.
  1. The commenced legislation contains four key developments regarding Occupiers’ Duty of Care:
  • Inserting into primary law a number of recent court decisions which rebalance the duty of care owed by occupiers to visitors and recreational users. These changes include Courts having regard to the care visitors may reasonably be expected to have for their own safety in all the circumstances, the probability of an accident occurring, the severity of any injury that might occur and the cost of eliminating the risk. The standard of care occupiers must show has to be adapted to the conditions and the social utility of what is being provided should also be considered.
  • Changing the standard of care owed by the occupier in relation to the existence of a hazard on their property from one of reasonable knowledge to that of acting recklessly in relation to the hazard.
  • Limits to the circumstances in which a court can impose liability on the occupier of a premises where a person has entered onto premises for the purpose of committing an offence; and
  • Allowing for a broad range of scenarios where it can be shown that a visitor or customer has voluntarily assumed a risk resulting in harm. Prior to this legislative change written agreements were required. now the occupier may be relieved of liability by means other than a written agreement.
  1. Recent press clippings:

The Occupiers Liability Act applies to children who are old enough to understand a risk and to younger children via their parents or guardians as well:

  1. Reforms to date:
  • In March 2021, the Judicial Guidelines were introduced, replacing the Book of Quantum for the assessment of awards in personal injury cases. The Guidelines provided more detailed guidance in the assessment of awards and have contributed significantly to reducing awards to levels seen in other European countries by more accurately ascribing specific values to specific claims.
  • A Garda National Insurance Fraud Unit has been established. According to the CSO, there were 98 insurance fraud cases recorded by An Garda Síochána in 2022, compared to 18,453 personal injury claims in the same year. That is half of one percent yet insurers have regularly insisted that up to 20pc of claims are fraudulent. Insurers expect An Garda Síochána to step up to the mark in preventing it, but with very few exceptions, they are not prepared to invest in detection or reporting themselves.
  • The volume of claims and size of awards have dropped considerably in recent years without any noticeable improvement in public liability premiums:
  • The total number of personal injury claims submitted to the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) continues to fall. It is now down by 46% between 2016 and 2022.
  • The average PIAB public liability assessment is -39% compared to the average 2020 assessment under the old Book of Quantum.
  • The recently published (July 2023) NCID mid-year data report on public liability by the Central Bank found a 12% reduction in the total cost of settled injury claims to H1 2022 from the 2015-2019 pre-Covid average.

[1] https://www.gov.ie/en/press-release/6b16c-minister-mcentee-welcomes-the-passage-of-bill-giving-effect-to-major-insurance-reforms/#:~:text=Minister%20McEntee%20said%3A,or%20community%20building%20for%20example.