Calls to Insurance Confidential hotline have come from friends, relatives, neighbours, customers and employers, according to the Irish Insurance Federation (IIF),
“We are delighted with the response, which shows a real public desire for action against fraudulent claimants,” said spokesman Martin Long. “We were warned that it wouldn’t work without some form of a reward, but people are obviously aware that insurance fraud is costing everybody.” The IIF set up the hotline last month to cut the 100m cost of fraudulent insurance claims. Sixty-four per cent of the calls were about fraudulent motor claims and 22% related to fraudulent claims under employer and public liability insurance. Two thirds of the callers to the Insurance Confidential Hotline were male.
The IIF wants people who bring fraudulent or exaggerated claims to be treated as perjurers and to be given equivalent sentences.
The success of the hotline has been welcomed by Supermacs managing director, Pat McDonagh. Last year, he publicised a case where his fast food chain had been sued for negligence by two youths. Video footage revealed they splashed water on the bathroom floor before deliberately slipping.
“Up to a year ago, the insurance industry would have said the problem was negligible but, with all the publicity, there’s now a realisation that this is a huge issue and I’m delighted to see the hotline is working so well,” Mr McDonagh said. Since Supermacs began to handle its own insurance and fight claims aggressively, successful claims against the company have dropped from 18 in 2000 to four last year: “We’ve had a remarkable run of success in the courts. In one case, a solicitor withdrew the case, because he didn’t want to be associated with a client who had six previous claims.”
With up to 40% of court settlements going towards legal fees, the legal profession has been strongly criticised by the insurance industry. Tánaiste Mary Harney has set up the Personal Injuries Assessment Board with the intention of reducing the costs of settling cases. This must happen before premiums will fall, say the IIF.
The Law Society said its members were not responsible for the high cost of insurance premiums. “We wish the insurance companies would come clean about the real reason,” said director general Ken Murphy. “Insurance companies are not getting the same return from their premiums in the stock markets and there’s also been a collapse in the re-insurance market and extra costs from flooding. We think it’s completely unjustified to deflect the blame.”