DUBLIN - Ireland's judges voted on Saturday to adopt new guidelines for personal injury claims that aim to reduce the size of awards for minor injuries and encourage early settlements as a way to reduce legal fees and in turn cut insurance costs. The guidelines, approved by majority of the country's 166-member Judicial Council, will replace the Book of Quantum, which currently gives guidance to judges on how much should be awarded in different personal injury claims. Seven senior judges drew up the new framework, and the Judicial Council said it would provide greater certainty and lead "to increased numbers of early settlements, and therefore a reduction in the legal costs of both claimants and defendants". The panel of judges set the guidelines after comparing Ireland with other countries including England and Wales and Northern Ireland, where awards for damages for personal injuries are lower. It examined data that suggested whiplash awards in Ireland were 1.2 to 1.3 times higher than in Northern Ireland and 1.9 to 2.3 times higher than in England and Wales. Anticipating Saturday's approval vote, Justice Minister Helen McEntee said on Friday she would ask her cabinet colleagues to back a minor legislative amendment so the guidelines take effect as soon as possible. "This approach will ensure that the law is robust as we seek to reduce the cost of insurance," she said. REUTERS
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