Head of Law Society slams insurance sector over hikes

The president of the Law Society has accused the insurance industry of using the Setanta Insurance fallout to “excuse their egregious increase in premiums”, claiming the sector will soon find another way to keep customer payments high in the future.

In a forthcoming article for the Law Society of Ireland Gazette, Stuart Gilhooly says the legal profession was “fighting the good fight” for consumers, as opposed to the insurance sector which he claims “scandalously used the entire debacle” of Setanta’s collapse to keep premiums high.

A Supreme Court ruling last month overturned previous court findings that the Motor Insurers’ Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) should pick up the bill as a result of the demise of the insurance company. The MIBI is funded by the insurance industry.

Victims of the Setanta Insurance scandal are not guaranteed to receive 100% of their claims, it emerged in the Dáil this week.

Junior minister Michael D’Arcy said he could not guarantee full repayment to the near 1,600 victims, but he and his officials would do “their very best” to ensure the best possible return. There are 1,600 third-party claims outstanding.

Mr Gilhooly wrote: “The details and rationale behind the decision have been well ventilated elsewhere, but it’s important to take stock of the reasons behind the case. We were asked by the then president of the High Court to represent the interests of the claimants. Having been advised that we had a strong case, we felt it was the right thing to do. Victims of injury have no voice in this country unless the legal profession is providing it.”

He added: “The insurance industry scandalously used the entire debacle to excuse their egregious increase in premiums. Now that they no longer have this excuse, they will have to dip into their lucky bag for the next one. It won’t be long in coming.”

He said the Law Society would lobby the Government to make sure those entitled to payouts got what they deserved. “The Setanta claimants will be the only road traffic victims in history to receive less than 100% of their compensation, as the Government is committed to changing this limitation for future cases.

“I have written in the strongest terms to the Minister for Finance to ask him to correct this fundamental injustice,” he wrote.

A statement from Insurance Ireland on Mr Gilhooly’s comments said: “Insurance Ireland welcomed the decision of the Supreme Court as the MIBI was never designed to address the liabilities of an insolvent insurer. The uncertainty around how the Setanta liabilities would be resolved did add to the volatility in the claims environment. Insurance Ireland accepts the decision of the Supreme Court and welcomes the clarity it brings for claimants.”


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