Dáil debates

Thursday, 25 March 2021

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


5:45 pm

Photo of Noel GrealishNoel Grealish (Galway West, Independent) | Oireachtas source

Now, more than ever, things like the cost of insurance can tip the balance when businesses are trying to remain viable at a time when the Covid-19 pandemic has already put many of them out of operation entirely and others are on the brink of closure. That is not even to mention the impact of Brexit. All of us have heard the stories from business owners whose insurance premiums have doubled, tripled and quadrupled in the space of a few years. At least part of the reason for high insurance premiums are the so-called day trippers - people who are carving a career out of making false claims for personal injuries and getting away with it. I have been contacted by several Galway business people operating in different fields for whom the cost and availability of insurance cover is literally a matter of life or death for the businesses they operate. They support a campaign for an 80% reduction in damages awarded for minor, fully recovered injuries to bring them into line with international norms. That is not part of this Bill but is something that should be addressed in the future. I believe that reducing the amount of compensation in such cases would make it a less appealing process for people making bogus or exaggerated claims.

Tackling incidents of fraudulent claims, as proposed in this Bill, will play a part in making insurance cover more affordable. That could make all the difference in the world to businesses. Some time ago, an insurance company told the Oireachtas finance committee that it believed 20% of its claims were fraudulent. The company claimed to have caught approximately half of those. One in five claims is an extraordinary level of fraud and it is obvious that those people are not put off by the current penalty structure in the event of them being caught. We need to have serious consequences in place for insurance claim fraud that would make very public examples of those criminals and make others think twice about doing it in the future. In my opinion, this Bill will do that. First, the fraudsters would have to pay the court costs of the people they are trying to defraud as well as their own legal representation costs. Second, a judge throwing out a case for personal injuries compensation because of fraudulent evidence would have the option to refer the matter to the DPP for possible prosecution. Third, the fines those people would face on conviction would be increased to a more realistic level.

I am aware there is a debate over the extent to which fraudulent claims have an impact on the cost of insurance cover. If we can seriously tackle and reduce the number of bogus claims, the insurance companies can no longer use that as an excuse for charging exorbitant premiums. This Bill will not entirely solve the problem of crippling insurance costs, but it is a step in the right direction and part of a range of measures that can be taken to tackle the problem.


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