Insurers told to explain price hikes

The head of the Injuries Board has called on insurance companies to explain double-digit increases in premiums in the wake of figures which show that the number of personal injury claims litigated in court fell last year.

Interim chief executive Maurice Priestly also urged the insurance industry to show greater transparency in the conduct of their business.

“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,” he said yesterday.

He was speaking as the Injuries Board released figures to show that the volume of new claims it received last year rose by just 1% over 2013 while High Court claims fell by more than a quarter.

“What we are seeing are insurance premia increases in the region of 20% and further clarity is needed on the precise cause of increases of this scale,” Mr Priestly said.

The Injuries Board received 17,132 new claims in the first six months of the year, representing a 7% increase on the 15,987 new claims received in the same six-month period last year, according to the mid-year analysis released yesterday.

According to the board, the increase in new claims to the end of June is most likely attributable to increased economic activity with more people at work and more vehicles on the road.

Compensation to the value of €128.45m was awarded to 5,741 personal injury claimants in the first six months of the year, compared to compensation totalling €144.68m in respect of 6,552 awards in the same period last year. It is anticipated that the board will assess a similar number of cases in the full year of 2015 compared to 2014.

The average compensation award for the first six months of 2015 is €22,375, compared to an average award of €22,082 in the same period last year.

In a statement, the board said many consumers have experienced double-digit increases in the price of their insurance this year although the number of personal injury claims initiated through the courts dropped in 2014 for the first time in seven years (-26% in the High Court; +16% in the Circuit Court). The number of awards also dropped to 1,527 in 2014. In 2013 it was 1,699.

Data from the Injuries Board indicates what it describes as a “modest” 8% increase in new claims over the past 18 months.

In the decade since the board’s establishment, 70% of personal injury claims are no longer litigated. To date this year the Injuries Board has delivered savings of €35.4m on the cost of processing personal injury claims.

Mr Priestley said: “It is not surprising that there has been a modest increase in claims volumes year to date given the general economic upturn with more people at work and a lot more vehicles on the road.

“However, what we are seeing are insurance premia increases in the region of 20% and further clarity is needed on the precise cause of increases of this scale.”

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