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Money: Injury pay-outs hit the roof.

IRELAND is going compensation crazy as claims for personal injuries spiral out of control.

With countless solicitors now offering a no win no fee service the number of people suing after an accident at work has grown by 20 per cent during the last two years.

Ireland now has one of the lowest occupational accident rates in Europe but one of the highest injury claims rates, both in terms of value of claims and level of awards, figures from employers federation IBEC show.

In 1998 more than 60 percent of accidents at work resulted in litigation, with the estimated average claims almost 2.5 times that in the UK. Compared with Britain Ireland has a staggering 44 per cent more workplace claims per capita.

And the cost of personal injury claims was between IRpounds 660 million and IRpounds 1.2 billion in Ireland in 1998, adding up to almost 3 percent of GNP. Nine out of ten claims are settled out of court, but legal costs still account for up to half of awards in smaller cases.

For employers who have to buy liability insurance, the cost is now three times higher than in Britain, double what it is in Denmark and seven times the cost in the Netherlands.

Tony Briscoe, Assistant Director of IBEC, said it is time to call a halt to the compensation culture.

"Those who make opportunistic spurious and exaggerated claims and the irresponsible solicitors who incite and support them must be made to realise that 'working the system' is no longer acceptable to the rest of us," he said.

"Over the coming five year period the State, its agencies, business and industry will face a bill of approximately IRpounds 5 billion in respect of personal injuries if the current system and the new level of claims emerging are allowed to continue unchecked".

In particular he attacked the tone of the "if there's blame there's a claim" lawyers' adverts.

"They encourage opportunistic and trivial claims which harm everybody. It is not just big businesses that suffer.

Often people organising local sports events are put off because of the fear of getting sued if something goes wrong."

A bill is currently being considered by the Government that - if passed - would temper the crude advertising techniques.
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Title Annotation:Business
Author:Kelly, Tom
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 17, 2000
Words:378
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