Worryingly there appears to be anecdotal evidence of Claims Farmer ‘Ambulance Chasers’ moving in on the Irish PI system. The Practice is widespread.

The full text of The Injuries Board Press Release is below:

Modest but consistent rise in new claims:
Recession, aggressive promotion and ‘ambulance chasing’ likely causes
New issue-specific claims emerging – Thalidomide and DePuy

InjuriesBoard.ie, today Wednesday, 26th September, 2012 released details of its work in the first six months of 2012. Data for the period shows a gradual but consistent increase (4.1%) in claims volumes compared to the same period in 2011. Though not the recessionary spike that some had predicted, the increase warrants ongoing monitoring as there is little evidence of a matching increase in accidents. The period also saw the emergence of issue-specific claims linked to Thalidomide and De Puy hip replacements.

In the six months to June, Injuries Board.ie received 14,669 claims, an increase of 4.1% on the comparable period in 2011. Awards totaling €109.04 million were made in respect of 5,180 personal injury claimants. Motor accidents continue to account for 59.4% of personal injury claims with public liability and employer liability accounting for 27.2% and 13.5% respectively. This reflects a slight increase in public liability volumes and a slight reduction in the volume of workplace claims (circa. 1%), consistent with ongoing lower numbers at work.

The rising claims trend has continued into the second half of 2012. Though it is difficult to be definitive, anecdotal evidence suggests a mix of contributory factors including:

tendency for claimants to pursue lower value claims given the recessionary environment
a noticeable increase in advertising and promotion by providers of claims related services, particularly online, and
anecdotal reports of regressive practices more commonly known as ‘ambulance chasing’ or ‘claims harvesting’ (a practice of identifying accident victims e.g. online or presenting to repair shops or accident and emergency wards, for referral to personal injury lawyers).
Commenting, InjuriesBoard.ie Chief Executive, Patricia Byron said:

“Higher claims volumes without a matching increase in accidents, suggests that more people are making claims or are being prompted to do so. Whereas it is encouraging that we have not seen a dramatic recessionary spike – due in large part to the efforts of the Health & Safety Authority, the Road Safety Authority and Insurance Industry Anti-Fraud initiatives – increases are unhelpful at a time when individuals and businesses are seeking to contain insurance premiums.”

InjuriesBoard.ie also noted that it is in receipt of a number of issue-specific claims linked to injuries arising from Thalidomide and hip replacements (De Puy).

In July, the Irish Thalidomide Association announced that its members would be lodging individual applications for compensation with InjuriesBoard.ie. As liability remains in dispute between the parties, InjuriesBoard.ie opted to release these claims to the Courts immediately so as to avoid delays for long suffering Thalidomide survivors and their families.

Year to date, Injuries Board has received 605 claims in respect of the De Puy hip replacement recall. As a total of 3,500 implants are understood to have been fitted, further claims are likely to arise.

Commenting, on high volume, issue-specific claims, Ms Byron said:

“Currently when multiple issue-specific claims first arise, InjuriesBoard.ie is obliged to release these cases to the Courts until a compensation benchmark has been established. As litigation costs typically add over 50% to the cost of underlying awards this can mean additional costs of €500,000 per €1million in awards, even in circumstances where liability is not in dispute. Assessing these cases through a non adversarial process, such as InjuriesBoard.ie, could result in substantial savings.”

The average time taken by InjuriesBoard.ie to make an assessment is seven months. The average award made by the Board in the first six months of 2012 was €21,049 marginally down on the average for the same period in 2011 of €21,086.

By mid-year, InjuriesBoard.ie has delivered cost savings of over €22million in 2012 and estimated total cumulative savings (direct and indirect) of over €500million since mid-2004.