Thursday 18 December 2014

Charlie Weston: 'Compo culture' fears spark a 30pc rise in car insurance

Published 12/01/2014 | 02:30

Femal Accident Victim Waits Outside of Her Car
'Compo culture' is driving up premiums. (Image posed) Photo: Thinkstock

DON'T be surprised if your motor insurance premium goes up, and by quite a bit, this year.

Some experts contend that the rises could be as high as 30pc.

The fear is that our "compo culture" will be given new life thanks to changes in the sizes of claims that can be dealt with at district and circuit courts.

Justice Minister Alan Shatter has ignored all calls not to change the court award limits, and instead said that the changes would be effective from the start of next month.

The worry is that the changes will encourage more people to go to court rather than settle their case.

Lawyers, consumer groups, insurers and broker bodies were among those who appealed to the minister to desist from making the changes.

But push ahead he will and from February 3 the limits of claims that can be dealt with in a district court rises from €6,384 to €15,000.

In the circuit court, the upper limit will go from €38,000 to €60,000 for personal injuries claims, and €75,000 for other claims.

This will make the courts busier and lead to huge delays and greater costs for companies -- and the costs will be passed on in increased motor insurance premiums.

The massive irony here is that the Government is doing this just a few years after it set up the Personal Injuries Assessment Board -- which is now called the Injuries Board -- in a bid to allow consumers to make claims without going through the courts.

This succeeded in cutting lawyers, and their high costs, out of the system and reducing the overall cost of personal injuries. Lawyers do not get their costs covered by awards paid out by the Injuries Board.

This led to a huge reduction in motor, home and commercial insurance rates.

Now the Government is set deal the Injuries Board a significant blow.

The latest measure will increase legal fees and risk greater levels of litigation, claims the chairwoman of the Injuries Board, Dorothea Dowling, who is also head of claims at CIE.

The Department of Justice maintains that the monetary limits for cases taken in the district and circuit courts were last amended in 1991.

The limits were so low that the district and circuit courts were rendered "redundant in respect of some classes of civil proceedings".

All of this comes at a time when the largest general insurer in the market, RSA Ireland, is in financial turmoil and is expected to hike premiums.

And women have seen their premiums rise in the last year due to misguided EU gender laws.

It seems nobody in Government has much regard for the interests of consumers.

Twitter: @CWeston_Indo

Irish Independent

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