Motor premiums have leapt to a record high – and few solicitors will be surprised by what the industry’s lobbyists want the government to do about it.
The Association of British Insurers said the cost of motor insurance has accelerated to an average of £485 a year.
That represents an increase of £45 on the same point last year, based on the ABI’s latest motor premium tracker, and leaves costs at the highest level since the figures were first collated in 2012.
The ABI does not cite personal injury claims as factors behind the latest rise, noting instead that insurance premium tax has doubled in two years and average repair bills are up by a third in the last four years.
But the organisation still urges the government to push through proposals to impose a tariff for whiplash injuries and to increase the discount rate for compensation payments. Experts have calculated that insurers could save as much as £2.5bn if the government’s calculations for the personal injury discount rate come to fruition.
Rob Cummings, head of motor and liability at the ABI, said: ‘The UK government’s proposals to deliver a personal injury compensation system that is fair for claimants, customers and taxpayers alike should help ease the pressure on motor insurance premiums.
‘We urge the government to publish a framework and timetable for making these reforms a reality so that we have in place a system that provides full compensation to claimants and benefits insurance customers, as well as other compensators like the NHS.’
This week the lord chancellor David Lidington confirmed his plans to press on with increasing the small claims limit for RTA claims to £5,000, and for other personal injury claims to £2,000.
Lawyers have told the Gazette that Lidington was wrong to suggest these types of claims can be run without legal representation. Qamar Anwar, managing director of First4Lawyers, said: ‘Ask any injury victim, solicitors add much value to the process of managing compensation claims by not only funding aspects of the case, obtaining medical reports and other documentation, but also acting as gatekeepers in identifying and preventing fraudulent and exaggerated claims entering the system in the first place. ‘Unfortunately, the government’s allegiances seem to rest with the insurers, not innocent accident victims.’
The ABI’s press release notably omits any reference to the contribution of higher motor premium rates to soaring profits and shareholder returns. In August Direct Line posted sharply higher interim profits and boosted its dividend, after revealing that the impact of the discount rate change had been less severe than feared. Other insurers, including Admiral, also posted higher interim surpluses and dividends even after accounting for the discount rate change.