The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) plans to pay legal fees to solicitors who represent ‘‘vulnerable’’ personal injury claimants.
PIAB has said that additional costs might be justified for certain claimants because of ‘‘exceptional circumstances, which may inhibit their access to the service’’. The fees will normally be paid by the respondent insurance company.
The PIAB announcement came days before it faces a High Court judicial review by a Polish man who claimed that he was entitled to recover his solicitors’ fees. It’s understood that PIAB will be conceding his claim on Tuesday.
Manus McClafferty of Maguire McClafferty, who are the solicitors on record for Michael Hinc, said PIAB legislation allowed claimants to be reimbursed for fees or expenses that had been ‘‘reasonably and necessarily incurred’’.
‘‘Mr Hinc does not speak English and he has no knowledge of Irish law,” said McClafferty.
‘‘I did not claim that he was ‘vulnerable’, but I thought he was entitled to be reimbursed for his legal advice fees. Anyone who does not have a law degree and experience in personal injuries work could be considered ‘vulnerable’ and should be entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of legal advice,” he added.
Last July, PIAB conceded it would meet the cost of medical examinations, after initially insisting it would pay claimants a flat fee regardless of the cost of the examination. This decision also followed a judicial review, brought by personal injuries solicitor Stuart Gilhooly of Dublin firm HJ Ward & Co.
Gilhooly said: ‘‘This latest decision by PIAB opens the floodgates and means that insurance companies are likely to have to pay out an element of legal costs in most cases. This undermines the basic principle on which PIAB was founded of cutting out lawyers and legal fees from personal injuries claims.”
Since 2004, all personal injury claims relating to workplace, motor and public liability accidents have had to be submitted to PIAB. The board claims that it is delivering personal injury awards at the same level as the courts, but three times faster and at 70 per cent lower cost. Chief executive Patricia Byron said PIAB already provided assistance to claimants through its helpline, but in exceptional cases, claimants needed additional assistance.
‘‘This is a welcome and necessary development and benefits claimants who, by virtue of individual circumstances, need external advice to process their claim,” she said.
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