Insurance industry has ‘run out of excuses’ for not reducing premiums

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10 April 2024

The insurance industry has “run out of excuses” not to give policyholders substantial reductions in their premiums after a landmark ruling in the Supreme Court.

The court found that guidelines on personal injury awards, voted into force by Ireland’s judges three years ago, are legally binding and remain in force, in a ruling that will affect thousands of personal injury cases currently awaiting judicial analysis.

“The case is thus of systemic importance,” Supreme Court judge Peter Charleton said.

Waterford woman Bridget Delaney challenged the 2021 guidelines, which have seen awards for pain and suffering reduced by up to 40%.

She claimed the guidelines were unconstitutional and amounted to an encroachment on judicial independence, but this has been rejected by the Supreme Court.

Ms Delaney was awarded €3,000 by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) after injuring her ankle when she tripped and fell on a footpath in Dungarvan. 

She was advised that under the previous regime, her injuries could have attracted general damages of between €18,000 and €34,000.

In operation since April 2021, the guidelines have generally resulted in lower awards from the PIAB and more settlements of cases without the need for expensive court hearings.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform claims the Supreme Court ruling has removed any uncertainty and ensured that lower payouts for minor injuries will remain. The organisation’s chief executive Brian Hanley said: “A substantial drop in premiums should absolutely follow the Supreme Court ruling.

“We now have a clear decision from the court in respect of the judicial guidelines and their use.

“The guidelines are the cornerstone of the insurance reform agenda that the Government has delivered.

“These, and essentially everything else the insurance companies were asking for, including the Garda Insurance Fraud Office and the Personal Injuries Resolution Board, have been set up.

“They asked for a lot of reforms they said were needed to improve the market and create an environment so the premiums could come down.

“On that basis, the industry has now finally run out of excuses not to reduce premiums significantly and on a sustained basis.”

Insurance Ireland chief executive Moyagh Murdock also welcomed the court outcome for consumers.

“It will bring much-needed certainty to the market and claimants can take comfort that their claims will be dealt with fairly and more expediently through the Injuries Resolution Board instead of going through a lengthy litigation process.

“The judgment should reduce the hefty legal costs associated with litigated claims,” she said.

The Supreme Court held that the guidelines continue to have effect and further changes would require legislative intervention by the Oireachtas.

If you would like an assessment of a claim, you can use the online form available here without obligation or alternatively you can use the automatic claim calculator.

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