Friday 23 August 2019

Editorial: 'All sectors must combine to cut insurance costs'

“Perhaps some solicitors should be a bit more selective about who they take on,” Judge Linnane reasonably suggested. Photo: Courtpix
“Perhaps some solicitors should be a bit more selective about who they take on,” Judge Linnane reasonably suggested. Photo: Courtpix


Long-suffering business people, motorists and householders may decide both sides in this argument deserve one another, and each is to blame for spiralling insurance premiums.

The insurance crisis in Ireland is closing businesses, threatening jobs, and forcing charities and sports groups to curtail their activities. This basic unfairness is hurting many law-abiding citizens. The past week has seen some authoritative questioning of insurance firms blaming Ireland's endemic "compensation culture" as the major driver of high insurance costs. These insurance firms' assertions have raised other questions about what steps they are themselves taking to combat a heinous and relatively widespread practice.

And up until relatively recently the answers from the insurance sector were not too impressive. As many of us know to our own cost, some insurers have taken the line of least resistance and paid dubious claims, passing on that cost to hapless customers.

Today in this newspaper one of the principals of a leading Irish insurance company, FBD, strongly defends the insurance firms rejecting reports of huge profits. The FBD boss asks whether judges and lawyers are doing enough to make a difference.

Those comments follow interesting remarks by a leading judge after a significant court case last week. Judge Jacqueline Linnane spoke in the Circuit Civil Court when dismissing five fraudulent damages claims for up to €300,000.

"Perhaps some solicitors should be a bit more selective about who they take on," Judge Linnane reasonably suggested.

In saying all that, nobody is trying to deny people who have genuinely suffered the right to redress.

Reality is that there can be no doubting a culture where too many people see an impending insurance claim as an opportunity to profit wrongly. And there can be no doubt that this issue must now be tackled effectively by many different sectors.

It requires the insurers to take a more aggressive role in fighting dubious claims. It requires lawyers, in that judge's words, becoming more selective, it needs judges to be more sceptical and pragmatic. Above all, it requires the pursuit in law of those who make false claims.

Up to now, such action is both rare and not very effective. As long as potential fraudsters believe the risk of being penalised is low, the longer they will continue to ply their wretched and dishonest carry-on.

Ultimately, the person buying insurance - as required by law for motorists and the risk of financial ruin for property owners - is rightly not unduly interested in who wins a blame game.

They merely want fair play in the form of good insurance at a fair price.

There is no good reason why insurance should become such a major threat to the quality of Irish people's lives.

In fact, the principle of insurance is that it should help enhance all our lives by managing risks.

Irish Independent

Today's news headlines, directly to your inbox every morning.

Don't Miss