New legislation is to be introduced in Ireland to curb 'client touting' advertising by solicitors in personal injury cases.
The move reflects government concern over the role of some members of the profession in the flood of compensation claims for deafness being made by officers and men of the Irish Army.
Ministers believe a small group of solicitors has been encouraging soldiers to seek damages against the state through an aggressive advertising campaign.
So far more than 9,000 claims have been lodged, with new ones arriving at the rate of 100 a day. The average cost of a settlement is estimated at £25,000, with £9,000 of that going to the legal team.
Department of Defence officials have already had talks with the Law Society of Ireland on the role of solicitors in the controversy. The society's director general, Ken Murphy, said the view at government level was that 'the type of advertising which is derogatorily referred to as ambulance chasing' had contributed to the number of claims made.
Only a minority of solicitors engaged in such advertising, he said, and the society would welcome a ban.
Jim Mitchell, chairman of the Irish parliament's Public Accounts Committee, said the compensation claims 'only got going when the adverts appeared in the newspapers from solicitors drumming up business'. He added: 'Now the total compensation bill could be so large as to disrupt the whole economy.'