There has been a €118m drop in the value of personal injury awards over the past two years.

The Personal Injuries Assessment Board (PIAB) annual report shows it paid out €157 to accident victims last year.

That amounts to a drop of €118m on 2019 and a drop of €49m on 2020.

PIAB said the fall was down to a drop in the number of accidents during the pandemic and the updated judicial guidelines on personal injury awards.

The report shows PIAB dealt with 21,410 new personal injury claims in 2021 – down 31% on 2019.

PIAB Chief Rosalind Carroll told Newstalk the decrease is largely linked to COVID.

“There have been less cars on the roads, most restaurants shut etc. and that has led to a huge reduction in the amount of accidents and therefore, now, the amount of claims,” she said.

“What we’re trying to highlight today is that actually had a huge saving to the overall cost of claims in Ireland.

“Our claims have come down by 31% so regardless of the guidelines being there, there has already been a major drop in the cost of claims in Ireland.”

The 2021 report covers four months before the updated judicial guidelines were introduced and eight months after.

PIAB said the guidelines are the “single biggest change” in the way personal injury claims are assessed since the board was established.

It noted however that the first few months saw “some initial uncertainty and volatility” around the number of claimants who were accepting PAIB awards rather than going on the court.

It said it now expects to see a gradual increase in acceptance rates and more stability in the trends as the guidelines bed in.

“While there are very immediate impacts in terms of award values, it will take time to see the full impact in terms of reducing the amount of personal injuries litigation,” said Ms Carroll.

She said insurance premiums should now fall for customers.

“The very significant shift in both volume and award values must not be ignored,” she said.

“The total value of awards that PIAB assessed in 2021 was €118 million less than in 2019. This shows major savings that will likely be mirrored outside of the PIAB system, which should translate into meaningful reductions in insurance premiums for consumers and businesses paying for cover.”

On Breakfast Business yesterday, the Aviva Ireland CEO warned that premiums would not fall as expected because judges were starting to row back on the personal injury guidelines.

Declan O’Rourke said up to 60% of PIAB awards are now rejected and taken to the courts.

He said the courts are often deciding to “reverse” the PIAB decision.