Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

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


5:25 pm

Photo of Verona MurphyVerona Murphy (Wexford, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Insurance reform is a buzzword which has been thrown around quite a lot in recent years. I have certainly heard plenty about it in my 13 months in he Dáil. There has been no shortage of talk about insurance reform but a major shortage of action. I welcome the fact that the Regional Group has the opportunity today to take action. We must take these issues by the scruff of the neck and make the necessary changes. The aim of the amendment Bill presented today by the Regional Group is to act as a deterrent to those making false claims by increasing the penalties for such offences, imposing legal costs on the plaintiff and having such matters referred to the DPP for investigation at the court's discretion.

Back in February, Wexford man Liam Griffin was interviewed in the Irish Independent. Mr. Griffin is a successful businessman and hotelier whose Ferrycarrig Hotel and Monart Spa are popular destinations in County Wexford.

In that article he said he believes the high cost of insurance is turning people off doing business, and even compromises community spirit. We constantly hear warnings about the childcare sector and the rising costs of insurance that force closures. There are big price rises for parents. Providers are leaving the industry. With regard to Covid, we are 192 days into a lockdown where a massive number of businesses have been forced to close, but the premiums are still rising. The whole insurance issue is currently causing major headaches for business people.

With all these points in mind, the need for colleagues to support our amendment Bill should be obvious. People who make fraudulent claims contribute to all the problems I have just discussed. In order to help solve those problems, we must ensure that attempted insurance fraud is met with a very strong deterrent. Having the provision for attempted insurance fraud cases to be referred to the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, is, quite simply, a no-brainer. Fraud is a crime and suspected fraudsters should be investigated by the DPP. I hope to see unanimous support for this stance. If we have strong deterrents against people chancing their luck with a fraudulent claim then we can help contribute towards an overall reduction in undeserved pay outs and, hopefully, towards a reduction in premiums for people.

I am disheartened and disappointed by the reaction of representative bodies in the insurance industry to the new Judicial Council's reductions in personal injury rates. I believe there may be a certain amount of heel dragging when it comes to insurance companies reducing premiums. The Minister of State, Deputy Fleming, has stated that delays in the reduction of costs will not be tolerated. This sounds promising from the Government but the Minister of State needs to ensure that he follows through.

There are other issues in the area of insurance that also need reform. For community, voluntary or sporting groups, and even for public amenities, a situation has developed where we have struck an insurance fear into the hearts of people trying to run events. Even if an organisation wants to run something as harmless as a field day, it feels the need to have an insurance policy in case the wrong person twists an ankle and looks to claim. We need to tackle frivolous claims and ensure that we do not continue to deter volunteerism and community activities or end up with the closure of amenities.


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