Representatives of the motor insurance industry have said that judges need to be educated about who pays for High Court injury compensation settlements.
The attack on High Court judges came after it was revealed that the average value of High Court injury compensation settlements had increased by 34 percent over the past twelve months. According to the Courts Service annual report, €155 million was awarded in High Court injury compensation settlements during 2014, at an average value of €304,000 compared with an average value of €227,000 in 2013.
During the same period, the average value of assessments conducted by the Injuries Board remained steady at around €22,600, and the increase in High Court injury compensation settlements prompted AA Ireland’s Conor Faughnan to say there was a need for judges to be educated to help them understand that High Court injury compensation settlements are paid for by the country´s two million drivers.
Some of the blame for the increase in High Court injury compensation settlements has been attributed to changes made by the Courts and Civil Law Act 2013, which raised the potential compensation level at which cases would be heard by the High Court from €38,092 to €60,000, and some observers believe that judges are automatically awarding a minimum of €60,000 even if the injury suffered merits less.
Dorothea Dowling – founding chairperson of the Injuries Board, and the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board – believes that plaintiffs are shunning Injuries Board assessments for more money at the High Court. Ms Dowling told the Independent: “The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance. This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts”.
Whereas Mr Faughan and Ms Dowling may have a point when High Court injury compensation settlements are made in favour of road traffic accident victims, it is not an opinion shared by everybody. Earlier this year Mr Justice Bernard Barton, criticised the government for not updating the injury compensation values published in the Book of Quantum since 2004.
In McGarry v McGarry Judge Barton commented “it is unquestionably in the interests of the proper administration of justice that the Book be reviewed and be kept updated to properly reflect [High Court injury compensation settlements]”. During the case, Judge Barton acknowledged that for all practical purposes the Book of Quantum was being ignored by the courts because it was so out of date.