Thursday 18 January 2018

Insurers are called on to justify huge premium increases

A modest rise in claims could be explained by greater economic activity and more cars on the roads
A modest rise in claims could be explained by greater economic activity and more cars on the roads
Charlie Weston

Charlie Weston

The head of the State body that deals with personal injury claims has questioned the need for a double-digit increase in motor insurance.

Insurance premiums are up around 20pc in the last year.

But the Injuries Board said it had only seen a 7pc rise in the number of claims for injuries from motor accidents and injuries in the workplace and in public places.

Acting chief executive of the board Maurice Priestly said there was an urgent need for more data from insurers to explain why premiums were rising so much.

A total of 17,132 claims were received by the board in the first six months of the year, up just over 1,100 on the some period last year. The average award paid out was similar to last year at €22,375. The total amount paid out in the first half of the year was €128.45m.

Mr Priestly said that a modest rise in claims could be explained by greater economic activity and more cars on the roads.

"Greater economic activity would be expected to generate greater numbers of policies and premium income for insurers. However, what we are seeing are insurance premium increases in the region of 20pc and further clarity is needed on the precise cause of increases of this scale," he said.

"Our data on claim volumes and the cost of processing claims is at odds with the scale of premium increases taking place in the market."

Insurers have blamed higher premiums on increased awards being made in the courts due to a rise in the size of award that can be made in the Circuit Court.

The Courts and Civil Law Act 2013 increased the monetary jurisdiction of the Circuit Court in personal injury cases from €38,000 to €60,000.

Founding chairperson of the Injuries Board, and the chair of the Motor Insurance Advisory Board, Dorothea Dowling, said she had warned the Department of Justice that allowing higher levels of awards in courts would encourage people to shun the Injuries Board.


Large numbers of claims and the cost of settling claims have also been given by insurance companies as reasons for spiralling premiums.

They also blame under-pricing of premiums in the past, under-reserving, more strict rules on the level of capital reserves needed to be kept by insurers, a fall in investment income and fraud.

Injury claims have to be processed through the Injuries Board. If a settlement is rejected, it can then be taken to the courts. Some four out of 10 Injuries Board settlements are rejected by claimants.

Mr Priestly said the number of personal injury cases initiated in the courts fell last year.

There was a need for a full inquiry into all aspects of the claims and insurance costs, he said.

"We strenuously reiterate our call for insurance data sharing and greater transparency in the interests of consumers and wider society," he said.

Irish Independent

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