Insurance claims up 5pc in last year – Injuries Board
THE promotion of a claims culture could result in higher insurance premiums, it was warned today.
The Injuries Board revealed almost 29,000 people made a claim last year, up almost 5pc in a year and up a quarter since 2007.
Patricia Byron, chief executive, revealed the increase was driven by motor claims which have jumped by more than a third over the last five years.
"The steady but consistent increase in claims volumes over the past five years is a real concern at a time when our roads have never been safer and we have fewer people at work," she said.
"The trend coincides with a significant increase in promotion and advertising by claims handling intermediaries.
"Last year, the Injuries Board raised concerns that specialist claims-farming firms were promoting a claims culture that could result in higher insurance premiums for consumers and business and a decline in competitiveness.
"We need to learn lessons from the UK market, where claims handling services are promoted heavily and whiplash claims have increased by 60% since 2006."
The board assesses personal injury claims and makes awards relating to motor, employer and public liability accidents, without the need for litigation and aims to keep cases out of the courts system.
Figures showed compensation awards jumped by almost 4pc to €218m in 2012. The average award was €21,502, while the highest was €697,495, and the majority were solved in seven months.
Three quarters of awards – 75pc - were for injuries from road traffic accidents, with the rest listed as workplace (8pc) and public place (17pc) accidents.
Co Limerick had the largest number of awards as a proportion of population, with Co Kilkenny having the lowest number of awards per head of population.
Ms Byron raised concerns over the regulatory gap that has emerged where solicitors are restricted from promoting their services, yet claims handling firms can do so with impunity.
"The upcoming Legal Services Bill presents an opportunity to address an emerging claims culture by extending restrictions on advertising to claims handling firms and by introducing strict powers of enforcement and sanctions for non-compliance by all intermediaries" she added.
In its annual report for 2012, the Injuries Board also raised concern that the volume of serious injuries occurring as a result of road traffic collisions in Ireland is grossly understated.
Garda figures show 300 people were seriously injured in car crashes last year, when 31 people were killed. So far this year 47 people have died on Irish roads.