There are practical steps that the Government can take which will assist the reduction in motor insurance premiums once and for all.
I have received figures this week which show the extent of the problem here in Ireland. The average payout for a whiplash injury in Ireland is 15,000 Euro wheras in Italy and Spain it is 3,000 Euro and in the UK it is 5,000 Euro. Another astonishing statistic is that 80% of claims in Ireland relate to whiplash injuries ( the figure in France is 3%).This alone adds in the region of 130 Euro to the cost of every motor insurance policy. Court awards on claims have risen in the region of 50% in the past two years. A total of 60% of the total cost of claims taken through the courts here are taken up with legal costs.
In addition, the Personal Injuries Board set up in 2004, has almost no powers at all and has been largely ineffective. They need to be given far more powers. Then we have had the Quinn insurance debacle which will cost insured drivers 1 billion Euro in levies. Then we have had the collapse of Setanta Insurance and recently Enterprise Insurance which are being paid for by insured drivers as well. In no other industry are companies required to bail out competitors who have failed.
There are a number of ways that the Government can act to reduce premiums if the political will is there. The practice of the industry having to bail out failed competitors must stop. There should be an upper limit on the awards for claims like minor whiplash injuries. There should be a zero tolerance attitude to fraudulent claims. The matter of excessive legal frees must also be tackled and a more realistic level of claims must be agreed in line with the practice in other European countries.
The Government cannot solve this problem on it’s own and all the relevant stakeholders must be involved, but this is a problem that must be tackled before many people are priced out of the market and are tempted to drive without cover at all and that would throw up an even more serious problem into the future.