The passage of the Judicial Council Bill is a major milestone in ongoing work to reigning in the cost of insurance, North Cork Fine Gael Councillor John Paul O’Shea has said.
Cllr. O’Shea was speaking after the passage of the Bill through the House of the Oireachtas. It will soon be signed into law by President Michael D Higgins.
Cllr. O’Shea said: “This landmark legislation will reform how the judiciary operates, promoting standards of excellence.
“This Bill will establish for the first time a council composed of all members of the judiciary, and will provide for the first time, a statutory basis for the appropriate training for judges and for the investigation of complaints against judges.
“And importantly in relation to insurance, the Bill provides for the setting up of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee.
“This committee will have responsibility for compiling guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injuries.
“Insurance costs have become a serious concern for small businesses and voluntary groups and a multi-pronged approach is needed to solve the problem of high premiums that are having a significant impact on those businesses and other parties affected.
“One of the most important challenges to be overcome is to bring personal injury awards in line with other jurisdictions.
“There will also need to be buy-in from the insurance industry who have admitted to making very large profits. The Government has pressed the industry to publicly commit to reducing prices in the event that awards are revised downwards.
“This legislation is just one of a number of pieces of legislation in train that will bring about insurance reform, including the Perjury and Related Offences Bill 2018, the Consumer Insurance Contracts Bill 2017 and the Civil Liability and Courts (Amendment) Bill 2019.”
Minister of State at the Department of Finance and the Department of Public Expenditure and Reform with special responsibility for Financial Services and Insurance, Michael D’Arcy welcomed the passage of the Bill.
He said: “Bringing the levels of personal injury damages awarded here in Ireland more in line with those awarded in other jurisdictions is the single most essential challenge which must be overcome if there is to be a sustainable reduction in insurance costs. This Bill is an important step forward to address this gap in award levels between Ireland and other jurisdictions, which was identified by the Personal Injuries Commission, chaired by Justice Nicholas Kearns.
“I would like to thank all members of both Houses for their support. The passage of this Bill has demonstrated a strong resolve among all Members of the Oireachtas to do everything possible to try and bring award levels in this country, particularly for soft tissue injuries, more in line with those in England and Wales and thus help alleviate the pressure faced by small business and voluntary groups in relation to insurance premiums.”
Justice Minister, Charlie Flanagan TD, said: “As part of a wide programme of action across Government, I was pleased to legislate to provide for the establishment of a Personal Injuries Guidelines Committee by the Judicial Council.
“Its purpose is to increase consistency in the damages awarded in personal liability cases. It is essential that highly profitable insurance companies also take action and offer fair and reasonable rates to consumers.
“High insurance costs are having an appalling impact on small businesses throughout the country and given the very significant measures taken by Government, it is now up to industry to act.”