PIAB – Must Deal With Solicitors: Appeal Dismissed by the Supreme Court
PIAB – MUST DEAL WITH SOLICITORS:
APPEAL DISMISSED BY THE SUPREME COURT
In In a landmark judgment delivered on 19th December 2008, the Supreme Court dismissed an appeal by the Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) that it was authorised to liaise directly with a complainant by virtue of the PIAB Act, 2003 and was not required to correspond with a complainant’s solicitor, where a complainant had nominated a solicitor to come on record for them.(1) The Supreme Court affirmed the ruling of the High Court in 2005, wherein the Court stated that the policy of PIAB of liaising with a complainant directly and not corresponding with the solicitor on record for them is not founded in the 2003 Act, interferes with the solicitor/client relationship and breaches a client’s constitutional right to legal representation. The Supreme Court, by its ruling requires PIAB to recognise a complainant’s right to legal representation and advice by requiring PIAB to contact a complainant’s solicitor directly.
The judgment is considered to be justified as there are serious consequences for a person processing a claim through the PIAB. It is acknowledged that professional legal guidance may be required in respect of issues such as the application of the Statute of Limitations, difficulties with medical reports and the cost consequences of refusing an assessment of damages, where the award subsequently offered by the Court is less than the assessment made by the PIAB.
The Supreme Court ruled that the PIAB should correspond with the complainant’s solicitor where instructed to do so, but may also inform a complainant of the progress of their claim by copying any letter sent to the solicitor to the complainant – the reverse of the PIAB’s original process of corresponding directly with clients and copying solicitors.
At the moment at least 90% of the claims to the PIAB are taken by solicitors on behalf of injured persons.