Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2021: Second Stage [Private Members]


5:15 pm

Photo of Peter FitzpatrickPeter Fitzpatrick (Louth, Independent) | Oireachtas source

I thank my fellow members of the Regional Group for their hard work in bringing this Private Members' Bill to the House. The main purpose of the Bill is to increase the penalties for those found guilty of an offence under section 26 of the Civil Liability and Courts Act 2004, which deals with fraudulent actions. The aim of the Bill is to act as a genuine deterrent to those people who make false claims and, in turn, increase the penalties for such offences, and to have such matters referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions for investigation at the court's discretion.

Everyone will agree that insurance payouts in this country are too high. If we look at payouts in other EU countries, as well as the UK, we can see clearly that insurance payouts are much greater in Ireland. There are a number of reasons for this, including high legal costs, but also the number of fraudulent claims being made. At present, there is no obvious deterrent for someone making a fraudulent claim. That needs to change. This is exactly what our group is looking to achieve with this Private Members' Bill. We must, once and for all, have a real deterrent in place to stop this fraudulent behaviour.

I have seen at first hand the devastating effects false insurance claims can have on small businesses, and I have spoken to many victims in my own constituency of Louth who have been subject to this. The sad thing is there are simply no consequences for making such claims, which is simply wrong. Before I came into the Dáil, I had my own business. Insurance was always one of the most costly expenses and it became more expensive each year. The bottom line is that it is business which suffers.

Defending cases of this nature in court is extremely costly, with the end result being that insurance premiums go through the roof. In addition, many business owners feel that insurance companies settle dubious claims too quickly and easily. This needs to be locked at and the insurance industry must be open to scrutiny in this regard. Why are some claims challenged and others not? It should be noted that it is only a very small minority who take part in this fraudulent behaviour but it is the majority who end up paying for it. People think that insurance companies are out of pocket with these claims but the simple truth is that they just increase the premiums for everyone else in order to recoup the money they pay out on claims. It can be seen clearly that we are all paying the price.

I hope Members on all sides will support the Bill. It is badly needed and must be supported.

The Regional Group is very clear that it wants to work with the Government and all Members of the House to bring an end to this fraudulent behaviour. Party politics simply do not come into it because as a society, we are paying a hefty price for insurance fraud and it must stop. We accept that there is no simple solution but do not accept that there is no way to tackle the problem. The bottom line is that fraudulent claims result in extraordinary payouts, which result in increased premiums that affect us all. As my colleagues have said, we need a range of measures to tackle insurance fraud and this Bill is just one such measure. It targets the minority of clients who bring fraudulent claims to court in the hope of receiving significant awards. It will deter individuals from making such claims. There must be repercussions for those who believe it is acceptable to submit fraudulent claims for damages.

On behalf of the Regional Group, I ask Members on all sides of the House to support this Bill so that we can begin the process of eliminating the scourge of false insurance claims in Ireland.


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