Changes to the PIAB Act commence on 3rd April 2019

Amendments to the PIAB Act commence on 3rd April 2019 to make it more difficult for claimants to sidestep the Injuries Board.  These amendments are particularly targeted at those who refuse to co-operate with the Injuries Board, for example by refusing to attend medical appointments arranged by the Injuries Board or failing to submit a full schedule of special damages.  The effect of this is that the Injuries Board release the claim or the assessment is kept low and the claimant can then safely reject the assessment and proceed to Court in the knowledge that the Court is highly likely to award a higher sum and the claimant can also recover their legal fees from the other party.

The amendments strongly discourage this type of behaviour by introducing costs sanctions for failing to co-operate with the Injuries Board.

The 2019 Act introduces Section 51 C which aims to deter non-compliance with the Injuries Board by allowing a trial judge the discretion to make an adverse costs order against a claimant or respondent who fails to comply with an assessor’s request for additional information or documentation; fails to provide assistance to experts retained by the Injuries Board; or fails to submit to a medical examination arranged by the Injuries Board.

Whilst the Act introduces potential costs penalties for both claimants and respondents it is clearly targeted at claimants and could have serious implications for damages recovered. Many firms, ourselves included, encourage full co-operation with the Injuries Board already and we do not advise our clients to reject the award solely in the pursuit of higher costs in court. These changes highlight the importance of claimants obtaining specialised legal advice from a solicitor before pursuing a claim even though they will have to pay for legal advice from their damages as the Injuries Board does not make provision for legal fees except in the case of children or vulnerable claimants.

The new Act also makes provision for a lower application fee for those opting to use the online portal and for the Book of Quantum to be revised at least every three years.