Law Reform Commission Report on Capping Damages in Personal Injuries Actions in Republic of Ireland
The Republic of Ireland’s Law Reform Commission recently considered proposals for a cap on damages awarded for personal injuries and how such a cap could be consistent with the Constitution’s clear provisions on the independence of the judiciary.
The report from the Law Reform Commission on capping damages in personal injury claims is a welcome addition to the debate about the cost of insurance. It is understood that the review of damages was prompted by rising insurance premiums for businesses and motorists. Personal injury claims in the Republic of Ireland are more than four times higher than those in the UK.
The model proposed envisages seeing the Courts continuing to set a maximum upper limit or cap for general damages in catastrophic cases, and a proportionality test for other cases. This will take into account the significant reforms arising from the establishment of the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee (PIGC), which will prepare new guidelines under the Judicial Council Act 2019 and which will replace the Book of Quantum.
While the guidelines to be prepared under the 2019 Act will largely be based on Court awards, a significant difference, in contrast to the Book of Quantum, is that the new guidelines will be able to depart from the current level of Court awards. In addition, section 99 of the 2019 Act, which has not yet been commenced will, amend section 22 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004.
This will mean that the Courts will no longer be required to have regard to the Book of Quantum in their assessment of damages. A Court will, instead, be required to have regard to any personal injuries guidelines produced under the Judicial Council Act 2019. The amended section 22 will place a greater obligation on the Court in that it will also place an obligation on the Court to state the reasons for any departure from the guidelines in its decision. Currently, there is no obligation on a Court to explain any departure from the Book of Quantum.
Responsibility for reviewing guidelines for general damages to replace the Book of Quantum is currently with the Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee of the Judicial Council and the Committee is due to present draft guidelines to the Board of the Judicial Council by the 28th October.
When implemented, this should lead to better articulated damages awards being made by the Courts. Some anticipate that mid-range Circuit Court cases will eventually see a downward trend in terms of the value of awards however it will be interesting to see if this transpires.
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