Wednesday 26 October 2016

Almost half of people believe there are few downsides to making false insurance claims - new research

Published 12/10/2016 | 16:44

Dearbhail McDonald spoke at the conference
Dearbhail McDonald spoke at the conference

A small number of people believe that there are sufficient legal deterrents to tackle insurance fraud.

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And almost half of those surveyed believe that there are few downsides to making a false or exaggerated claim.

Just 13pc of those in the 45 to 55 age group, and 7pc in the over 55s age group believe there are enough legal deterrents, according to the survey conducted by Amárach and commissioned by Insurance Ireland.

Fraudulent claims cost each driver around €50 a year, Kevin Thompson of Insurance Ireland told a conference his group organised on the theme of ‘Insurance Fraud: The Crime You Pay For’.

Mr Thompson said: “The vast majority of insurance claims are legitimate, but unfortunately the average policy holder pays for fraudulent activity which costs the general insurance industry €200 million per year. This costs the average motorists €50 per year.

“The findings of this survey are in line with the views of our members that there are not enough legal deterrents or consequences for people who make exaggerated or fraudulent claims, and this challenge must be overcome.”

Group business editor of Independent News and Media, the publisher of this newspaper, Dearbhail McDonald, said that the Government had introduced “unprecedented” legal measures during the last insurance crisis to tackle fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

Ms McDonald questioned whether insurers, who privately settle 70pc of cases outside of the courts and the Injuries Board, were using the “draconian” legal tools at their disposal and pursuing fraudulent claimants through the courts.

“Can insurance companies have it both ways?” asked Ms McDonald, who said more resources are required to investigate and detect fraud.

“Do insurance companies forfeit the right to complain about fraud if they are prepared to settle, for nuisance or commercial reasons, those cases that they suspect are dishonest or exaggerated?”

Ms McDonald also cautioned that any plans to introduce a UK style Insurance Fraud Bureau, a hub for the sharing of insurance fraud data and intelligence, would have to protect the data and privacy rights of insurance customers.

The conference comes days after a corrupt ex-garda, jailed for deception in relation to an insurance claim for a car crash that never happened, lost an appeal against his conviction.

John Joe Synnott, aged 61, with an address at Camblin Hill, New Ross, Co Wexford, had pleaded not guilty at Wexford Circuit Criminal Court to three charges relating to a reported road traffic accident on September 9, 2007 which prosecuting lawyers said never happened.

He was found guilty by a jury on all counts and was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment with the final two suspended by Judge Alice Doyle on June 30, 2011.

Synnott was the investigating officer when he reported that an Audi A4 travelling towards New Ross collided with a parked Subaru Impreza. Two claims were paid out by AXA Insurance totalling €23,352.

During the trial he had admitted calling the Garda information service to report the accident and that he had not attended the scene.

The link between the two drivers and John Joe Synnott was a Joe Redmond — a partner of one of the supposed drivers, a lifelong friend of John Joe Synnott as well as a known criminal, according to the evidence of a retired superintendent at trial.

Synnott had sought to appeal his conviction on a number of grounds related to the trial judge’s instructions to the jury but Mr Justice John Edwards said the three-judge court was unable to uphold any of his grounds.

Mr Justice Edwards dismissed the appeal.

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