Tuesday 11 December 2018

'My insurance rose to €102k as a result of claims' - The reality of trying to run a business in Ireland

  • Restaurant owner paid legal fees of €23k to fight a claim that was eventually settled
  • Nightclub owners struggling to get insurance
  • Nearly 90pc of pubs in Ireland said their insurance increased in the last two years - survey
Eoin McCambridge pictured outside his business in Galway
Eoin McCambridge pictured outside his business in Galway
Amy Molloy

Amy Molloy

Eoin McCambridge says if you had asked him in 1985 what would be his biggest problem today, he wouldn't have predicted insurance costs.

Yet the Galway man, who is managing director of McCambridge's food hall, deli and restaurant, fears he will have to close his business if insurance premiums keep going up.

McCambridge's employs 70 people and they expanded their business in 2012 by opening a restaurant upstairs. That's when the company's insurance premium took a turn for the worst.

"I'm in the business for 32 years and it's been in my family since 1925. We opened the restaurant and the following year, we had a couple of claims. We did a lot of health and safety work to cut down on incidents and to ensure safety for our customers, but our premium shot up from €17,000 to €102,000 in the space of a few years," he told Independent.ie.

A couple of the claims involved a slip and fall on the premises, while a customer also lodged a personal injury claim after hot tea was spilled on their arm by an employee.

"The tea incident was our fault, and we will always throw our hands up and accept when we are in the wrong, but there have been a couple of cases where I wanted the insurance company to fight them as I didn't believe they were genuine, but they just paid out," the 54-year-old said.

"In one case, we had legal fees of €23,000 and it never even went to court. It was settled after a couple of years. We have so many customers coming in there are bound to be slips and trips, and we have to take responsibility, but it is becoming a game at the moment. For some people it's almost a business and it's very hard to defend.

"I mean, everyone is entitled to legal representation but how can we compete with no win, no fee? Even if you fight the case and win, you still end up paying out and the other person will turn around and say they can't pay your legal costs."

Business owners in the nightclub and bar industry have also questioned how they're supposed to survive, when some struggle to even get a quote from insurance companies.

Anton Treacy has been running Benedicts Nightclub in Enniscorthy, Co Wexford since the year 2000.

While he admits his premium isn't as high as some companies, he says it's the excess that's "the killer".

"Your excess is the one that really hurts. We've been lucky in that our insurance hasn't gone up hugely, as we have a good track record, but my problem is that while there can be genuine incidents, which we have no issue with and deal with, I think all nightclubs are a potshot for anybody and as soon as that letter comes in, the excess is going up, so win lose or draw, we end up losing anyway," Mr Treacy told Independent.ie.

"I will fight any claim I believe needs to be fought, but it's a very frustrating system. You go to the Injuries Board and they can disagree with that decision, then it ultimately goes to court, or can even end up being settled on the steps, which just racks up your costs."

Over a ten year period from 2005 to 2015, the number of licensed premises in Ireland has declined.

As of September 2017, there were 7,140 licenced premises in Ireland, compared to 7,175 in 2016, according to the Vintners' Federation of Ireland.

According to Padraig Cribben, VFI Chief Executive, publicans have experienced substantial increases in their premiums over the past two years.

He says: “VFI members are facing a situation where insurance costs are rising by, in some instances, over 40pc. Personal injury claims lodged against publicans is one of the primary reasons put forward as justification for the increases. However, there is little transparency with insurance companies on these claims.

“We conducted a survey that revealed 88.3pc of members have seen an increase in insurance in the past two years.

“There is an urgent need to introduce transparency to how premiums are calculated. We also require more information as to how, why and when claims are settled,” he said.

Nichola Nolan, manager with Crotty Group Insurance, said nightclub owners are finding it increasingly difficult to get insurance in Ireland.

"In my experience the majority of nightclub and entertainment venues are difficult insurance risks to place even for the most seasoned brokers and we are now finding that only London Market Insurers are willing to offer terms for liability risks for nightclubs.

"In most instances, the covers will come with high excess’s applied on each claim – sometimes up to €10,000 in my experience.

"The goal of most bars and nightclubs is to provide a gathering place (which means a high footfall) where patrons can have a good time, often by listening to or watching entertainment, and/or dancing, while purchasing and consuming alcohol. However, it is the latter item, the consumption of alcoholic beverages that tends to lessen or remove inhibitions in many people, which is a frequent cause of problems and, increasingly, claims for bar and club operators."

A number of organisations from across the country have launched a campaign for action to end crippling insurance premiums.

The Alliance for Insurance Reform has been brought about by 18 civic and business groups from across Ireland who wish to highlight the negative impact of high premiums.

It represents 35,000 members, over 620,000 employees and 41,300 volunteers who are calling for real action to tackle the issue.

"Persistently high, unsustainable insurance premiums are pushing everyday organisations to the brink and denying Ireland the voluntary and business services any civilised society might expect," spokesperson for the Alliance Peter Boland said.

"The formation of the Alliance for Insurance Reform is on the back of intense frustration with unjust and persistent rises in insurance premiums and the clear lack of any meaningful results from the initiatives taken in the area so far.

"What is at stake is the survival of charities and voluntary bodies serving our country and the livelihood of Irish business owners and their staff. That is why we need action now."

Online Editors

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News