Press Release

Personal Injury Claims Costing Taxpayer £4 million per year

Session: 2009/2010

Date: Thursday, 22 April 2010

Reference: PAC 12/09/10

Personal injury claims against Roads Service are costing the taxpayer £4 million per year, and the average cost of a claim has increased by nearly four times the rate of inflation over the past decade. That’s the shocking message from the Northern Ireland Assembly Public Accounts Committee which today published its Report on The Management of Personal Injury Claims.

Speaking at the launch of the report, Paul Maskey MLA, Chairperson of the Committee, said: “The Committee was shocked to find that the levels of compensation paid out here for personal injury claims are roughly double those paid in England and Wales. These payments are based on guidelines set by the local Judicial Studies Board. We were also surprised to learn that £1 million is being paid out in legal fees for claimants.

“The Department told us that a judicial committee of solicitors, barristers and judges sets County Court fees. The Committee is greatly concerned that the legal profession, whose members stand to benefit financially, makes this decision in isolation from the public and private sector bodies which must bear these costs. This is an unhealthy situation which does not seem to meet any of the generally accepted principles of governance and accountability.”

The Report also looked at the number of claims made between 1999 and 2008 and at efforts from Road Service, and its parent Department for Regional Development (DRD), to improve both road surfaces and customer service.

Paul Maskey said: “The Committee recognises that the number of claims between 1999 and 2008 fell by more than half — from 1,700 to 800 — and that is, of course, a positive step. However, during this time, the cost of a successful claim has doubled to £8,683, nearly four times the rate of inflation.

“The Committee acknowledges that the arrangements which Roads Service have in place provide a legal defence in most cases and have greatly reduced the number of successful claims over the last ten years. Nevertheless, Roads Service needs to recognise that maintaining roads and pavements is not only about providing a legal defence, it is also about service and customer focus.”

 

ENDS

Notes to Editors:
  • Standing Orders under Section 60(3) of the Northern Ireland Act 1998 have provided for the establishment of the Public Accounts Committee (the Committee). The statutory function of the Committee is to consider accounts and reports on accounts laid before the Northern Ireland Assembly.
  • These are laid by the Comptroller and Auditor General for Northern Ireland (C&AG), who is head of the Northern Ireland Audit Office (NIAO). The C&AG is empowered to investigate any area of expenditure and has a statutory right of access to all files and papers in Departments and public bodies.

The PAC Committee members are:-

Alliance

Mr Trevor Lunn

Democratic Unionist Party

Mr Jim Shannon 6
Mr Jonathan Craig
Mr David Hilditch 7,10
Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson 3,4,5,9

Sinn Fein

Mr Paul Maskey (Chairperson) 2
Mr Mitchel McLaughlin

Social Democratic and Labour Party

Mr John Dallat
Mr Patsy McGlone 1,8

Ulster Unionist Party

Mr Roy Beggs (Deputy Chairperson)

Progressive Unionist Party

Ms Dawn Purvis

1 With effect from 04 March 2008 Mr Thomas Burns replaced Mr Patsy McGlone.
2 With effect from 20 May 2008 Mr Paul Maskey replaced Mr John O'Dowd.
3 With effect from 1 October 2007 Mr Mickey Brady replaced Mr Willie Clarke.
4 With effect from 21 January 2008 Mr Ian McCrea replaced Mr Mickey Brady.
5 With effect from Tuesday 27 May 08 Mr Jim Wells replaced Mr Ian McCrea.
6 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr Jim Shannon replaced Mr David Hilditch.
7 With effect from Monday, 15 September 08 Mr George Robinson replaced Mr Simon Hamilton.
8 With effect from 29 June 2009, Mr Patsy McGlone replaced Mr Thomas Burns.
9 with effect from 18 September 2009 Rt Hon Jeffrey Donaldson replaced Mr Jim Wells.
10 with effect from 18 September 2009 Mr David Hilditch replaced Mr George Robinson.

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