Review of State Claims Agency’s handling of injury claims
The Irish Times reported on 16 October 2015 that there was to be a review of the way the State Claims Agency handles catastrophic injury claims and to be completed within six months, according to the Department of Finance.
Under the terms of reference, the review will consider the potential cost implications of introducing a no-fault system relative to the current claims system, which is based on adversarial principles. proposals made in the review must not increase the overall amount of claim costs or the amounts paid to “undeserving cases, especially at the expense of deserving cases,” the core principles state.
The newspaper stated the department was considering expanding this review to examine the possible introduction of a no-fault system.
It reported that Minister of State Ann Phelan speaking in the Seanad on behalf of the Government, said the review provided an opportunity to examine whether a more “person-centred approach” could be taken in catastrophic injury cases. Ms Phelan said the agency’s approach in cases where the State was liable was to settle claims as expeditiously as possible and on fair and reasonable terms. Where liability was fully disputed, the necessary resources were applied to defend claims.
The newspaper noted less than 3 per cent of clinical negligence cases handled by the agency resulted in a contested court hearing. Under a no-fault scheme the Minister explained, it is necessary only to prove the injury was caused by medical treatment and there is no need to establish blame or individual responsibility. A no-fault scheme would require a significant investment in health and social welfare, Ms Phelan suggested. Legal costs would be lower, but the overall cost would increase significantly.
Families who have settled birth and other medical injury cases after many years of litigation have often criticised the Health Service Executive for defending the cases until the last moment. The HSE said such cases are handled on its behalf by the agency while the agency denies causing any delay.
The paper also noted Labour Senator John Whelan said the sight of families being dragged through the courts in the search for justice occurred “all too frequently”. We need a change of culture from a system where the State goes to war against its citizens, very often accepting liability five or 10 years down the road,” he said.