Personal injury payouts could be capped under proposed new legislation which, it is hoped, will help reduce the cost of cover for businesses, motorists and farmers.
It proposes that injury award levels would be set by the Justice Minister and agreed by the Dail and Seanad, a move that would effectively take control of the setting of damages away from the judiciary.
Fine Gael Senator Anthony Lawlor tabled his private member’s legislation in the Seanad last month.
He says his bill has the support of small and large businesses, farming community and the insurance sector.
The senator said: “This would help reduce the price of insurance for the ordinary working man.
The Attorney General, Seamus Woulfe, has been examining the proposed legislation – The Civil Liability (Capping of General Damages) Bill 2019.
The government has been under pressure from the insurance industries and some business representatives for several years to take action to reduce insurance costs, particularly for motorists. The insurance industry claim the huge amount of awards force them to pass on costs to their customers in higher premiums.
This Bill is one of four major measures that the Government is planning to try to curb escalating premium costs for drivers and businesses, as well as high awards for damages in personal injury cases in Irish courts.
The other measures are for the Garda Commissioner to consider setting up a special insurance fraud investigation within the Garda National Economic Crime Bureau; new guidelines (a book of quantum) for judges on appropriate award levels for soft-tissue and whiplash injuries; as well as the publication of a key information report on employer and public liability insurance claims.
The Minister for State with responsibility in this area, Michael D’Arcy, said the Government was looking at two possible ways of capping payouts.
The first is the formal commencement by the Law Reform Commission of an examination into the possibility of capping levels of damages for personal injury actions.
The second could be by means of a Private Members’ Bill which has been tabled by Fine Gael senator Tony Lawlor with the aim of putting an upper limit on payouts.