ALMOST EUR114m now lies uncollected in claims from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board because injured parties were unhappy with their payouts and have decided to go to court.
Up to 40 per cent of claimants are walking away from the Personal Injuries Assessment Board process and deciding to take their chances in the courts instead.
When the PIAB was set up in 2004, the idea behind the independent statutory body was to curb excessive personal injuries payouts.
In the majority of personal injuries cases, potential litigants have to go through the Personal Injuries Assessment Board first. However, they are not legally bound by the board's judgements or awards.
With a rise in people opting for a courtroom claim, many in the legal profession argue that the PIAB forces people to fight the same case twice and that it represents another layer of officialdom.
"When there is a personal injury claim they get first crack at it. But in at least half the cases the award is not accepted and the client instructs their solicitor to proceed to court. If you lost your finger and were awarded EUR19,000 by the assessment board would you accept it?" said Damien Cassidy, a leading Dublin-based solicitor.
"They ask for a medical examination which is provided by the client. The injury board also have their own physician who does an examination which can take three months. What was intended as a short cut is now a long cut," he claims.
In 2005 the PIAB dealt with 951 assessments, which rose to 5,573 in 2006. In the past year they have dealt with over 8,500 cases.
"If you claim for personal injury compensation you must come to the PIAB first. We deal with car accidents, or if someone tripped on a path, that type of thing. We don't deal with medical negligence cases or psychological injuries. As an organisation we have under 85 staff and we are self-funding, which is fairly reasonable for a public service," explained Sorcha Cody, spokesperson for the Personal Injuries Assessment Board.
The claims process is simple -- a litigant fills out an application form and encloses a EUR50 administration fee, along with a doctor's report which explains the nature of the injury and the prognosis for the patient.
The relevant insurance companies are also part of the process, with most claims being settled within a time frame of nine months, at which point a successful injured party will be offered an assessment of what award the PIAB feels the other side should pay.
With court cases, legal costs can be as high 46 per cent of the actual award.
With the Personal Injuries Assessment Board the legal costs remain below 10 per cent. There is a downside, though, with the average payout in the region of EUR40,000, which is modest considering what one could achieve in a court.
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