Wednesday, 5 October 2022
Personal Injuries Resolution Board Bill 2022: Second Stage
The purpose of the Bill is to amend the Personal Injuries Assessment Board Acts to facilitate an increase in the number of personal injury claims that may be resolved through the board's process and without recourse to litigation. It is to be welcomed that we will free up our courts to deal with more serious cases. Encouraging more claimants and respondents to avail of the board's model through mediation or assessment should lead to cost savings in the claims environment and contribute to reductions in insurance premiums. I say "should", but last year a Sinn Féin survey found that 58% of respondents who had received their renewals since the new personal injuries guidelines came into effect actually saw their premiums increase. As such, the House might forgive my scepticism. We heard previously from a Minister of State that the Government was engaging directly with insurers to hold them to account and to ensure that savings were passed on to customers following the introduction of the personal injury guidelines. The evidence shows that this approach has failed.
My colleague, Deputy Doherty, has introduced a Bill that would require insurance companies to show how they were passing savings on to their customers. The Bill would require the insurance industry to provide information to the Central Bank outlining how the cost of claims had reduced as a result of the new personal injuries guidelines and how insurers had passed those savings on to their customers euro for euro. Irish consumers have repeatedly been ripped off by insurance companies that have put their customers at the bottom of the pile. It is about time that we held the insurance industry to account.
The Bill places an increased emphasis on the resolution of claims through an amended personal injuries framework that facilitates mediation and assessment as a means of resolving personal injury claims. The proof of the pudding, though, will be in the eating. The Government needs to monitor this carefully. Sinn Féin's legislation requires just this, namely, the publishing of a report on the effects of the previously introduced guidelines and that consideration be given to the report when framing future legislation.
Nobody has done more work to prevent insurance customers being ripped off than An Teachta Doherty. We all remember the joint committee meeting where claims of widespread fraud were made until An Teachta Doherty asked how many cases had been reported to the Garda. Insurance reform is badly needed and real action is needed to strike a fair balance in this regard. In government, Sinn Féin will deliver the necessary action.