A thirty-four percent rise in the number of compensation settlements awarded by the High Court has been observed in 2014, with some claiming that this is because of over-generous judges.
Emer Lang, an analyst at Davy Stockbrokers, first noticed this increase in compensation awarded by the High Court when she collected information from the Courts Service Annual Report. The data showed that, in total, €155 million in compensation was given out, spread over five hundred and nine personal injury claims, in 2014.
This worked out to be an average of €304,000 per claim, and when compared with the average value of €227,000 in 2013, it showed that there was a 34% increase between the two years. The average value for assessments that were conducted by the Injuries Board did not increase over the same period, remaining at roughly €22,600.
Consultants from the motor insurance industry have reported their shock at the new figures. Conor Faughnan, at AA Ireland, commented that the judges dealing with these claims needed to be trained to help them gain an understanding that the compensation that they award is ultimately paid for the country’s two million drivers.
However, others blamed recent changes to the Courts and Civil Law Act in 2013, which meant that any case that was expected to settle for over €60,000 had to be heard in the High Court. Before this, the limit was €38,092. The Motor Insurance Advisory Board’s Founding Chairperson, Dorothea Dowling, claims that the plaintiffs are preferably using the High Court System, over the Injuries Board, in the hope of receiving more money.
“The Department of Justice was forewarned well in advance,” Ms Dowling told the Independent Newspaper. “This is what happens when you increase the limits of the lower courts – it sends out the message that €38,000 is small money.”
However, Mr Justice Bernard Barton does not agree – last July, he criticised the government for not updating injury compensation values in the Book of Quantum (upon which the Injuries Board bases its assessments) since 2004.
Judge Barton commented in McGarry vs McGarry that “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 compensation awards]”.