Insurance fraudsters add €50 to average motorist's premium
THERE are at least six insurance fraud rings operating around the country, it has emerged.
Staged accidents are now so common that insurance fraud adds almost €50 to the average driver's premium, new figures show.
The revelations come as insurers have stepped up efforts to clamp down on fraud. Lobby group Insurance Ireland set up a special committee last month in a bid to tackle the issue.
Head of general insurance at Insurance Ireland Michael Horan said: "There are various insurance rings and all sorts of staged accidents going on."
Insurance companies are concerned about what they regard as a spate of spurious accident claims in at least six locations in particular - Swords and Tallaght in Dublin, the Cork area, Galway, the Border region, and Ennis in Co Clare.
The "accidents" tend to feature large numbers of people, none of who will have a serious injury.
Another feature is that typically those claiming injury are from the same extended family. There is often a taxi involved.
After the accident, large numbers turn up in A&Es complaining of neck injuries and other soft-tissue injuries.
Whiplash is notoriously difficult to disprove but usually results in a pay-out of €18,000, insurance sources said.
Insurance companies report a surge in claims, something that has been picked up in figures from the Injuries Board.
The board, a State body for dealing with insurance claims, has seen the volume of claims rise by almost a third since 2008.
The higher level of claims is partly responsible for a 12pc rise in motor premiums last year, with forecasts of rises of at least the same level again this year.
Head of claims at Aviva Allan Archer said insurance fraud was estimated to be adding €46 to the average premium.
"The vast majority of motor insurance claims are genuine and are met by insurers without delay. But insurance fraud is a serious issue for the industry," he told the Irish Independent.
"Aviva Ireland has allocated significant resources to combating fraud which we estimate is costing customers €46 on an average premiums."
There is another €40 cost on the average premium to fund cases where honest drivers are involved in accidents with uninsured or unidentified drivers, in a scheme run by the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI).
John Casey of MIBI said it was aware of a number of bogus traffic accidents and rigorously defended any claims it thought were questionable. But the courts tend to take a lenient view of those engaged in a staged accident, a number of claims managers alleged.
Often judges allow a case to be thrown out when it is obvious it is a spurious claim, with no consequences for those making the false claims.
However, a Dublin man who claimed he injured his back in a car accident lost a claim after a DVD showed him taking part in a cage fight.
He was prosecuted for providing false information, the first prosecution to be made under legislation introduced in 2004 which made it an offence to make false claims in a personal injury case.
Insurance sources welcomed what they said was a rare case of a prosecution being taken for false statements.
Insurance Ireland, the group that represents the industry, set up a special claims committee last month in a bid tackle what is seen as a rise in dodgy claims.
The number of calls to the Insurance Ireland anti-fraud hotline has almost trebled since 2008, Mr Horan said.