Four years of the personal injuries assessment board: assessing its impact

AuthorJonathan Ilan
PositionPhD, Post-doctoral Researcher, Compensation Culture Project, School of Law, University College Dublin
Judicial Studies Institute Journal [2009:1
Since the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB)
began operating in 2004, there has been considerable change and
controversy injected into Ireland’s personal injury claims regime.
Linked to wider measures designed to tackle a perceived runaway
“compo culture” and spiralling insurance premiums,1 PIAB was
specifically presented as a means of reducing the high levels of
legal costs associated with negligence claims.2 Debate over the
Board’s fairness and efficacy persists. Legal practitioners
maintain that its lawyer-sceptical ideology is a snub to the
legitimate rights of victims. As parties hold the option of retaining
* PhD, Post-doctoral Researcher, Compensation Culture Project, School of
Law, University College Dublin. This work is part of the Compensation
Culture Project undertaken by the Schools of Law in University College
Dublin and the University of Strathclyde, funded through project grants from
the Irish Research Council for the Humanities and Social Science and the
Economic and Social Research Council. The author would like to thank Colin
Scott, Simon Halliday, Denis Cusack, Vincent Hogan and Anthony Kerr for
their comments on earlier drafts of the manuscript.
1 See Ryan, “The Impact of the Act on ‘Compensation Culture’: Big or
Small?” in Craven and Binchy (eds.), The Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004,
(Dublin: Firstlaw, 2004), p. 138.
2 As per then Minister for Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Mary Harney:
“The purpose of establishing this alternative mechanism is to reduce the cost of
delivering claims and expedite the delivery of a person’s entitlements …
The purpose of not providing legal costs or fees in this case is to reduce costs.
The Insurance Industry Federation informed us that €340 million, an incredible
sum, was paid in legal costs and fees, while IBEC stated in 2002 that personal
injuries were costing employers €2 billion, of which legal costs accounted for
€600 million. The PIAB will not hold oral hearings in which claimants will
have to advocate or someone will have to advocate on their behalf”. Debates of
the Select Committee on Enterprise and Small Businesses, Dáil Eireann, 10th
December 2003 (34 SESB1, No. 4). Available at
2009] Four years of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board 55
legal representation (albeit at their own expense) and to ultimately
reject awards in favour of initiating litigation, the Board’s impact
is inherently tied to public acceptance of the new paradigm.
This paper examines the publicly-available data on PIAB
and court litigation, which despite containing notable lacunae,
reveals a number of significant insights. Firstly, an analysis of the
outcome of PIAB applications will be undertaken. Secondly,
questions will be posed concerning the manner in which savings
of time and money have been calculated. Thirdly, rates of higher
court litigation will be reviewed to determine the Board’s impact,
and comparisons will be drawn between the adjudication of
compensation under the two regimes. Finally, the paper will
consider the media debate between the proponents of PIAB and
the legal profession, both to contextualise the manner in which
public data has been presented, and to comment on its possible
impact on the Board’s operational aspirations. Ultimately, it will
be argued that the Board seems to adjudicate principally on cases
that would previously have settled out of court. Due to a paucity
of data on the cost and expedience of cases settled privately,
it becomes difficult to draw precise comparisons between the old
and new regimes. PIAB’s claimed improvements must be read in
light of this caveat. In considering PIAB outcomes such as “early
resolution” and “rejected awards”, the paper will argue that there
is perhaps a more nuanced relationship between the legal
profession and the Board than previous media coverage might
suggest. Indeed, it will be argued that there may be enhancements
to the efficacy and equity of the PIAB process through enhancing
the formal role of legal representation within current practices.
The combination of the Personal Injuries Assessment Board
Act, 2003 (the “PIAB Act”), and the Civil Liability and Courts
Act, 2004, created a new personal injury litigation regime in
Ireland. The latter statute reformed litigation procedures,
introduced a system for the early notification of defendants,
reduced the limitation period for initiating actions from three
years to two, and introduced penalties designed to combat

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