Loopholes in Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) legislation could deprive personal injuries victims of damages, according to legal experts.

Since 2004, all personal injury claims relating to workplace, motor and public liability accidents have had to be submitted to PIAB.

In its annual report, PIAB said it made awards worth EUR115.3 million last year - a sixfold increase on the 2005 figure. ‘‘We continue to focus on making the PIAB process user-friendly, reducing stress and trauma for accident victims,” said PIAB chief executive Patricia Byron.

However, lawyers have pointed out that some applicants could lose out on their awards because of a loophole in the primary legislation.

Under the 1957 Statute of Limitations, claimants in personal injuries cases must normally lodge any court claim within two years of the date of the accident.

Section 50 of the 2003 PIAB Act ‘stops the clock’ on the statute in most cases.

But personal injuries solicitor Stuart Gilhooly, of HJ Ward and Co in Dublin, pointed out that section 50 did not apply to cases involving accidents on ships or aircraft, or cases where the respondent had died.

‘‘A person may be involved in a car accident and claim against the other driver,” said Gilhooly.

‘‘But if that other driver dies, the claim no longer falls under section 50 of the PIAB Act.

‘‘Instead, it comes under the Civil Liability Act, which means that the injured person has just two years from the date of death to make a claim.

‘‘If PIAB does not inform the claimant that the respondent has died, the clock will continue to run and the person may be deprived of his award. This has already happened in two cases, to my knowledge.”

Legislation was passed by the Dail last month to tighten up procedures for claims and to force claimants to pay legal costs in certain cases, but the loopholes were not closed by the amending act.

A spokesman for PIAB agreed that the Statute of Limitations did not apply to cases where the person responsible for the injury had died.

‘‘Once PIAB becomes aware of the death of the respondent, our procedure is to release the case to the courts,” he said.

‘‘This issue will be included in the general review of the legislation which the minister has undertaken upon completion.

‘‘It is quite a complex area involving, for example, international conventions which are beyond national legislation, and it was not possible to deal with the matter at the time of the recent amendment act.

‘‘In line with standard practice, it is expected that the legislation will be reviewed now that PIAB is up and running for a few years. It is a matter for the minister or department as to when this takes place,” the spokesman said.