Irish businesses say insurance issues are hampering their reopening efforts

Issues surrounding insurance could make it difficult for Irish businesses to re-open after the Covid-19 lockdown.
Irish businesses say insurance issues are hampering their reopening efforts

Issues surrounding insurance could make it difficult for Irish businesses to re-open after the Covid-19 lockdown.

Business interruption insurance is proving to be a sticking point, with many businesses fearing they will not recoup the losses they suffered during lockdown.

Businesses have also expressed concerns that customers may take personal injury claim against the premises if they believe they contracted Covid-19 onsite.

Peter Boland of the Alliance for Insurance Reform says they are calling for immediate reform of the entire sector. "It is ultimately the policyholders who are paying the cost of this."

"We are not calling on insurers to pay out on every business interruption policy, because in many policies [Covid-19] clearly isn't covered. We are calling on the ones where it is covered to be dealt with in a fair and efficient manner."

Businesses also fear reopening due to potential Covid-19 personal injury claims.

"There are clear concerns about reopening because Ireland has such a litigative personal injury system. There are genuine fears about reopening at all. The liability could fall directly onto the business rather than being handled collectively through insurance," says Mr Boland.

"It's unique to Ireland, no place else pays out like we do, or has the type of structures built around personal injury claims like we do.

It damages the Irish hospitality sector's competitiveness, as in other countries they don't have the added cost of liability.

A recent survey carried out by the Alliance for Insurance Reform found roughly 55% of respondents were worried about Covid-19 personal injury claims.

34% of respondents said that the most reassuring measure to combat these claims would be indemnification by the state.

14% said insisting insurers vigorously contest opportunistic or exaggerated claims would be the most reassuring measure, and a further 13% said clear guidelines from the state would be their preference.

Other measures high up on the list of measures to combat Covid-19 personal injury claims were a reduction in damages awarded for personal injuries, for the judiciary to apply a more balanced duty of care to plaintiffs and defendants, and an increase in sanctions for fraudulent and exaggerated claims.

Pub and restaurant representative bodies say progress has been made in some areas, but they are worried about personal injury claims.

Adrian Cummins, Chief Executive of the Restaurants Association of Ireland, said that progress has been made in relation to business interruption insurance.

Huge progress has happened on behalf of our membership by our legal team, who have spent the last number of weeks analysing policies. We have found 66% of policies reviewed by the legal team, we believe, have a case for business disruption.

In terms of reopening, Mr Cummins says there is concern that Ireland's 'compensation culture' will extend to Covid-19.

"There is major concern with regards to liability for Covid, and more so customers that may claim they got Covid in a business. What is needed is clarity by the government around liability and duty of care."

Brian Foley of the Vintners Federation of Ireland says there are currently a number of cases in the High Court taken by pubs in relation to business interruption insurance. "While these cases have nothing to do with VFI, we await their outcomes with interest."

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