Rising personal injury awards threatening retail sector

May 22, 2019

Retail Ireland, the Ibec group that represents the retail sector, has today said that it is vital for retailers that proposed amendments to the Judicial Council Bill 2017 are now agreed by Government and brought into law before the summer recess.

The group outlined that Employer and Public Liability insurance costs are adding an unnecessary burden and limiting the sector’s ability to grow, create jobs and deliver value and choice to Irish consumers.

Thomas Burke, Director of Retail Ireland, stated: “Rising insurance premiums, fraudulent and exaggerated claims and general inefficiencies in our insurance market have become a major competitiveness issue for retailers in recent years. Irish retailers continue to report average increases in Employer and Public Liability insurance of between 5 and 10 percent per annum, despite a falling number of incidents in store as a result of increased investment in staff training and store layout. Despite tireless work and substantial investment, efforts in this area have been undermined by our inefficient personal injuries regime."

Awards for soft tissue injuries in Ireland are over 4 times those of the nearest comparable market, the UK, and are simply unsustainable at current levels. Retailers are disappointed at the pace of reform and continue to pay for that delay every day in terms of rising insurance premiums and overly inflated claims awards.

As well as the urgent prioritisation of the Judicial Council Bill 2017, Retail Ireland is calling for:

  • Full implementation of the recommendations made by the Personal Injuries Commission.
  • Full implementation of the Cost of Insurance Working Group’s Report on the Cost of Motor Insurance and Employer and Public Liability Insurance.
  • A dedicated funding stream to provide resources to enable Gardai to tackle a growing prevalence of fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

Mr Burke continued: “Irish retail is currently undergoing significant structural change, and margins in the sector are under growing pressure from rising input costs in a variety of areas including labour, rent and local authority rates. Given the ongoing inflation in insurance premiums many retailers are now choosing to opt for the costly self-insurance approach as a means for keeping their annual insurance premiums down and increasing their say on whether to contest a questionable claim. This is not an option for smaller retail operations.

“Unless urgent reform is forthcoming, many retailers will simply be unable to meet growing premiums into the future. Tackling our inflated personal injury awards and bringing our level of awards into line with other comparable EU countries is key to reducing premiums. To that end the passing of the Judicial Council Bill 2017 will allow for the compilation of guidelines for appropriate general damages for various types of personal injury and give certainty to the judiciary.”