The High Court has ruled that the Personal Injuries Assessment Board's (PIAB) policy of dealing directly with clients, rather than through their solicitors, is outside the powers conferred on it by legislation.
The challenge to the policy was supported by the Law Society.
Mr Justice McMenamin found that the relevant section of the legislation establishing the PIAB did not contain a specific power enabling it to adopt this procedure.
The jusge said the right to legal representation and the lawyer/client relationship existed in the common good and helped to guarantee equality in litigation and the maintenance of fairness between the strong and the weak.
The Law Society claimed that the issue of the PIAB's entitlement to disregard written authorisation of an applicant to communicate solely with his or her solicitor went to the heart of the solicitor/client relationship and the ability of a solicitor to represent a client.
On its website, the PIAB says:
The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) is a new statutory body set up to provide independent assessment of personal injury compensation for victims of Workplace, Motor and Public Liability accidents.
This assessment will be provided without the need for most of the current litigation costs, such as Solicitors fees, Barristers fees and Experts fees, associated with such claims. These significant costs contribute to the high cost of insurance in Ireland for both consumers and the business community. PIAB will be funded by way of fees payable by respondents (those who pay the compensation). These fees will be significantly less than litigation costs.