Personal Injury Claims Costing Taxpayer £4 million per year
Date: 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.”