Inconsistency in Court Rulings Negatively Impacting Insurance Market…Shannon Chamber Seminar hears

Helen Downes, CEO, Shannon Chamber pictured with (from left): Jodi McDonogh and Niall O’Neill, Willis Towers Watson and, Detective Inspector Declan O’Sullivan, Anglesea Street Garda Station Cork. Photograph by Eamon Ward

The main driver of escalating insurance premiums so prevalent today is the lack of consistency in court rulings, which is resulting in marked differentiations in the levels of monetary awards being made in our courts.

This was the stark message delivered by Limerick-based Willis Towers Watson’s claims director Niall O’Neill when addressing a recent Shannon Chamber business seminar.

In outlining the current state of the insurance market, Mr O’Neill stated that even though the industry is earning a net premium of over €1b, when the costs of claims, commission and expenses is factored in, the resultant net loss is €219m, which makes costing cover extremely difficult.

Giving examples of egregious court claims and illustrating their impact on the industry, Mr O’Neill said that increases in the circuit court limit is the single most damaging development in the insurance industry today.

He pointed to the loss of experienced High Court judges to the Court of Appeal which has left a vacuum in the lower courts.

“When you consider that 23 of the recent 36 High Court appointees have less than three years’ experience in dealing with personal injury claims, it raises the question as to the need for judicial training.

“Several cases before the Limerick courts and presided over by judges with less than three years’ experience at the bench have been awarded substantial amounts,” he said.

Detective Inspector Declan O’Sullivan, who is attached to Anglesea Street Garda Station Cork, also addressed the seminar and had the audience at the edge of their seats as he demonstrated the increasing incidence of staged traffic accidents.

“This has already led to more than 50 arrests, over 40 convictions and one lengthy prison sentence,” he said, warning the insurance industry to be vigilant of such occurrences, particularly when accidents involve cars with high occupancy, newly purchased policies and hired cars.

Speaking about the event, Shannon Chamber chief executive Helen Downes said: “It was an amazing insight into an industry sector in which we are all involved with and impacted by. The message was clear. Insurance companies and the public need to be more proactive in their dealings with An Garda and be prepared to name and shame those who are making fraudulent or exaggerated claims. Otherwise, the trend of escalating insurance premiums will continue. From a business perspective, higher insurance costs negatively impact Ireland’s competitiveness as an investment location.”