Higher court costs causing bigger insurance premiums – Judge

Government must act to the rising costs of insurnace
Limerick Circuit Court heard that premiums may drop if insurance companies changed adopted different court strategies

PREMIUMS would drop if insurance companies agreed to personal injury cases being heard at lower courts with unlimited jurisdiction on awards, a judge said.

That was the view expressed by Judge Gerald Keys after he heard an application by a Limerick woman who suffered a serious soft tissue injury in a “significant” car accident in October 2012.

The application before Limerick Circuit Court sought to have the assessment of damages transferred to the High Court.

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The Limerick woman, who is now 25, sustained a significant soft tissue cervical spine injury and suffered from psychological issues as a result of the accident. She was a child care worker for children with special needs and was likely to have long-term or permanent symptoms from her injuries.

Her legal representative Ciara Daly said that damages would exceed the maximum award allowable by the Circuit Court according to the new book of quantum used to assess personal injury awards.

She said that up to €77,900 could be awarded for a severe to permanent injury of this type. Her client already had injections for pain relief, 30 physiotherapy sessions, acupuncture and visits to a chiropractor.

The injury was also effecting her in respect of work and that she would be also claiming for a loss of opportunity.  Special damages, covering medical expenses, were already in excess of €5,000.

There were also psychological issues and the woman was also prescribed anti depressant medication.

Despite objections from counsel for her insurers, Judge Keys ruled that the case should go to the High Court as the award could exceed the threshold.

He said that because of the ongoing problems and the likelihood that the injury could be prolonged indefinitely, he had to take the woman’s case “at its best if all her evidence was to be accepted and unchallenged.

“However this could all be avoided if insurance companies agreed to unlimited jurisdiction on awards. There are mechanisms in place to allow them recoup their costs should a claimant not reach the expected award.

“All of this cuts down on the costs of sending things to the High Court unnecessarily. It’s a simple solution and if they did that then insurance premiums might drop”, he added.