Justice Kearns acknowledges many of the issues afflicting SME’s
ISME highlights four areas of change
Statutory offence of perjury needed
ISME, the Irish SME Association today (15th January) welcomes the views expressed recently by Justice Nicholas Kearns, Chairman of the Personal Injuries Commission on the Today with Sean O'Rourke show. Justice Kearns comments indicate some progress on the cost of insurance, but the Association highlights the fact that we will need to see how any proposed changes are implemented.
Justice Kearns acknowledged many of the issues which SMEs have long said afflict small business: general damages awards are too high by comparison with other countries; whiplash represents a huge proportion of the personal injuries actions settled in Ireland; fraudulent and exaggerated claims cost us at least €200m annually.
Commenting on this ISME CEO Neil McDonnell Said “While we welcome the Justice’s comments, we also recognise that the real issues will only be confronted in the Commission’s second report, and we will still get nowhere if vested interests are allowed to water down the required action.”
Specifically, ISME recognises that:
We need to revise the award size for every injury category in the Book of Quantum to reflect international norms. The fact that in Ireland a minor whiplash is worth up to €19,400, while in the UK the range is £2,850-£5,150, is completely indefensible, and lacks any evidential justification.
Like Justice Kearns, we would not like to see judicial discretion curtailed by law. If however, our judges continue to interpret judicial discretion as permitting them to pluck general damages awards from thin air, we will need to legislate this discretion away.
We need to robustly tackle fraud, treating it for the white-collar crime that it is, and sentencing accordingly. Amongst other reforms, we need a statutory offence of perjury. We call on Justice Kearns, and all members of the 32nd Dáil and 25th Seanad to support our Perjury Bill. An Garda Síochána must start investigating and prosecuting fraudulent claimants as a matter of course.
We need to ensure equality before the law for small businesses being sued by serial claimants. It is unfair and inequitable that a small business should have to fork out real money (and time) to defend claims of dubious legitimacy, when there is no chance of recovery of those costs should that case be withdrawn or thrown out. Nor should these professional claimants be allowed abuse privacy laws to cloak their criminal activity. There is a moral onus on the Data Protection Commissioner to advise how claimant data may be lawfully shared among insurers and the Gardaí.
“The costs of insurance will continue to rise unless these issues are tackled. We need to see action from Leinster House on this in 2018.”