In January 2017, the Personal Injuries Commission with the aim of examining personal injuries claims in Ireland. The commission’s investigations focussed on the proliferation of soft tissue and whiplash claims, as these types of claims appeared to be inexplicably on the rise in Ireland.
It has been widely noted that car insurance costs has increased by 70% for the average car owner in the three-year period between 2013 and 2016. It is unlikely that the number of injuries or accidents has increased so sharply as to directly correlate with this figure. As a result, experts believe that exaggerated or fraudulent claims are responsible for this sharp increase.
However, the Personal Injuries Commission believe that setting up an independent medical panel to investigate each cases of whiplash would interfere with a claimant’s rights. It is their recommendation that a different course of action be taken to sort the fraudulent claims from the veritable ones.
The Personal Injuries Commission has called for the establishment of a uniform approach for medical staff dealing with whiplash injuries. At present, there is no specific accreditation required or benchmark standard for a doctor wanting to complete a medico-legal report on a personal injury claim in Ireland. To combat this lack of standards, the Personal Injuries Commission states that doctors should adopt a standardised approach to diagnosing, treating and reporting on soft tissue injuries.
As most of these soft tissue injuries are whiplash related, it should give a more accurate figure for the true rate of whiplash injuries in Ireland. If the current figures are to be believed, based off claims made against car insurance companies, then Ireland is experiencing a much higher rate of whiplash than other European countries.
In particular it recommended that the Quebec Task Force Whiplash Associated Disorder grading scale should be implemented by medical professionals reporting on relevant injuries. This scale is based on the severity of symptoms and associated physical indicators. It states “Training and accreditation in soft tissue reporting is agreed as being the best practice requirement for those wishing to complete relevant reports”.
It is believed that a self-testing element by the injured party should also be adapted to assess compensation and damages.
The commission, chaired by Judge Nicholas Kearns, also called on insurance companies to publish details on the incidence of whiplash injuries. This could be an integral part of the National Claims Information Database currently being developed by the Central Bank of Ireland.
Justice Kearns stated that such dissemination of information on whiplash injuries would improve the personal injuries compensation environment in Ireland by encouraging ‘an objective standard’ for reviewing whiplash injuries. He added that, going forward, reports will look at comparative systems and bench marking compensation award levels globally.
He stated: “Preliminary findings suggest that the frequency of soft-tissue injury claims in Ireland would appear to be significantly higher than a lot of other European countries. It remains to be determined whether this could be a contributing factor in terms of claims frequency or exaggeration.”