Charlie Weston: It's time motor insurers applied the brakes to the premium hikes
The financial turnaround that has taken place in the general insurance sector has been nothing short of remarkable.
From racking up multi-million-euro losses, insurers here are now starting to break-even, with many now also making profits. And little wonder. Motorists, in particular, have bailed them out through vastly increased annual premiums.
Take FBD. The Dublin-quoted insurer suffered losses of €86m in 2015. Now, just a year later, it says it made a profit of €11.4m in 2016. And a huge factor in the remarkably quick return to profits was double-digit rises in motor premiums. Motor customers have been hit with premium rises of 50pc over the past three years.
Something similar has happened at all insurers, thanks to hapless motorists stumping up for the bad decisions of others.
Aviva reported last week that profits surged by 20pc in this country to €82m for last year, prompting calls for cuts in motor premiums in particular.
Some of the reasons for the losses recorded by insurers are down to issues beyond the control of insurers. These include our propensity to make claims, and the excessively generous payouts for often minor injuries when cases go to court.
But there has been a trend lately where judges are throwing out increasing numbers of cases when they spot inconsistencies in evidence or lies being told under oath.
People who claim to be invalids after accidents have been betrayed by their social media accounts - some people have been recorded jumping on trampolines, jogging and engaging in other energetic exercises.
In this regard, take a bow Raymond Groarke, President of the Circuit Court. He recently told three men he believed they were making up their evidence in relation to damages claims totalling €180,000 for personal injuries.
The no-nonsense judge has emerged as the driver's best friend. Claims frequency and payouts may not have gone up hugely lately, but insurers have nonetheless had to reserve more because they have been hit by a number of large awards going against them.
The next step is for insurers to take on the fraudsters when they are lying and file complaints with gardai when they suspect perjury.
More insurers should take the position of Aviva, which fights any case where it has suspicious of fraud or exaggeration. Even though this is a loss-maker for it in the short term, fewer dodgy cases would end up in court if this became common.
This change in judicial attitudes, in the Circuit Court at least, comes as the Government is working on changes to deal with the cost of cover.
It is now time for insurers to recognise that drivers need a break.
Sunday Indo Business