The PIAB: the pros and cons of Ireland’s resolution to the assessment of damages

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) provides resolution to the assessment of personal injury compensation without the need for a claim to be issued. It was signed into law on 28 December 2003 with the aim of reducing costs in personal injury claims in Ireland by providing similar outcomes to the courts but within faster timelines.

Whilst it can be a useful process to resolve the more straightforward of cases, there are some instances where it can hinder the resolution of a claim and inadvertently increase costs.

Background

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) is an independent state body that assesses the damages of personal injury claims in Ireland. Before any personal injury claim can be issued in the Irish Courts, the claim must be submitted to the PIAB. 

According to PIAB Statistics for 2017, approximately 33,114 personal injury claims were submitted to PIAB for assessment in that year. Out of that, 12,633 orders to pay were made, of which 6,788 were accepted. In terms of levels of awards these are the average recommended award in respect of public liability claims was €27,638 and in respect of employer liability claims was €32,014.

The process involves an assessment of the monetary compensation for injuries suffered by the claimant only. It does not involve any determination relating to the respondent’s liability for the accident and neither does it take into account any alleged contributory negligence on the part of the claimant. Indeed, consenting to the PIAB assessment will not be regarded as an admission of liability if the case ultimately proceeds to litigation.

The process

Step

Time frame

Notes

Claim to be notified to PIAB 2 years from date of incident/ knowledge - whichever is later The Limitation period will stop running on the date the claimant’s Form A is received by the PIAB and will commence again 6 months after the date of the authorisation.
Respondent accepts or declines the PIAB assessment 90 days

Failure to respond by the respondent will result in acceptance by default.

Acceptance – respondent must pay €600                              

Decline – authorisation will issue and the claimant can issue proceedings. We recommend rejecting assessment in all cases involving issues of liability or contributory negligence.

The PIAB has discretion to refuse to assess claims even where both parties consent. This usually happens where there is another underlying injury, where the injury is purely psychological or there is a large psychological element to the claim, or an uncertain prognosis. 

Acceptance leads to PIAB assessing the claim Within 9 months

Can be extended to 15 months but rarely needed as most cases are assessed within 7 months.

In assessing the amount of general damages, the PIAB refer to the Book of Quantum, which is a general guideline of compensation awards for pain and suffering and is similar to the Judicial College Guidelines

Following the PIAB assessment – the parties need to accept/reject its assessment

21 days (respondent)

28 days (claimant)

If the respondent fails to respond – deemed accepted and ordered to pay.                                       

If claimant fails to respond or rejects – deemed rejected and they can issue proceedings

If accepted by the respondent, but rejected by the claimant - the PIAB award will act as a tender, which is equivalent to Part 36 offers in the UK. Therefore, if the assessment is not exceeded at trial, the judge has discretion to award costs against the claimant from the date of the award.

Comment

The PIAB process can be a double-edged sword. The advantages are that it can achieve early resolution resulting in significant cost savings. In addition, it encourages the front loading of investigations to complete liability enquiries within 90 days, which can assist with the preservation of evidence.  

However if the award is declined by a claimant, the process can potentially add an additional nine months to the overall lifecycle of the claim, resulting in a delay to the progression of the claim and resolution, which negates the initial cost savings. Our experience has been that where liability is in dispute or there are grounds of contributory negligence, it is advisable to reject the PIAB assessment. Further, in addition to the process extending the length of the claim, it also can extend the limitation period and if timelines are missed then acceptance is given in default.

However, in circumstances where liability is being conceded, even with the possibility of an additional nine-month period being added to the resolution of the claim, it is worth accepting as there will have the benefit of independent medical evidence and uniformity of awards, whilst not being binding unless accepted. In addition, the PIAB act as a tender against the claimant if they do not accept the assessment (and the respondent does). This means that the claimant will have the risk of costs from the very onset of proceedings, where no further offer is made.

Read more items in Personal Injury Brief - October 2019