All that glistens isn’t gold

First4LawyersBy Legal Futures’ Associates First4Lawyers

Across the pond this week came news that two American insurers were planning to give back around $800m to customers on their car insurance premiums.

Allstate and American Family Insurance are responding to one of the many changes in consumer behaviour we’re seeing right around the globe as coronavirus takes hold. In this case, fewer drivers mean fewer accidents and fewer claims.

Both insurers have also said that their customers who are having financial problems as a result of the coronavirus crisis can delay payments on their premiums without incurring any penalty.

Nice touch? Yes, undoubtedly. But is it enough?

Dan Kerr, who runs a US-based data analytics company that acts as a watchdog on the insurance industry, says it’s just a drop in the ocean to a behemoth like Allstate.

Allstate’s own figures show that it pays out more than $1bn a month in car insurance claims. Kerr’s modelling suggests that those claims are likely falling by around 85% due to a massive reduction in accidents.

So, with that in mind, it most definitely isn’t enough.

I guess this just sums up the issue I have with insurers. Already the warnings of the impact on their market, or could that be profits(?), are circulating. Just yesterday global insurers warned governments that if they impose retroactive pay outs for coronavirus this will make it impossible for them to respond to the crisis and other insured events.

I hasten to add that no UK-insurer has yet made such a move and I shan’t be holding my breath. Yet now might be the time for those that can afford it, such as insurers – just Google insurance company’s profits and you will see what I mean – to step up.

At the very least UK car policyholders should actively be contacting their insurers to see how they can respond to the very different set of circumstances that most motorists find themselves in with cars effectively off the road.

Yet I fear the all-powerful insurance lobby will revert to type. When the going gets tough, the tough…go running to government.

Insurers have had it too good for too long. We all remember the frenzy they whipped up over a so-called ‘whiplash epidemic’ leading to the Civil Liability Act, only for evidence to show a decreasing volume in such claims.

No-one should underestimate the support the government is going to have to give to businesses both large and small over the coming months, but based on past performance insurers should be at the back of the queue.

Qamar Anwar is Managing Director of First4Lawyers


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