The legislation – signed into law by Gov. Eric Holcomb on April 20 – requires that each party in a civil proceeding and each insurer that has a duty to defend a party in court be notified of any litigation funding agreement before the case begins.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office defines third-party litigation funding as “an arrangement in which a funder who is not a party to the lawsuit agrees to help fund it.” Global multi-billion-dollar investing firms have made third-party litigation funding their sole or primary business and are experiencing strong growth.
As the market lacks transparency, estimates on its size can vary but, according to Swiss Re, more than half of the $17 billion invested into litigation funding globally in 2020 was deployed in the United States. Swiss Re estimates the market will be as big as $30 billion by 2028. Meanwhile, affordability of insurance coverage – especially for commercial auto products – has come under threat from increases in litigation and claim costs.
Several states have preceded Indiana in seeking to increase transparency around third-party litigation funding. In 2018, New York enacted legislation that added Section 489 to the New York Judiciary Law. This law mandates the disclosure of litigation financing agreements in class action lawsuits and certain aggregate settlement cases. In the same year, Wisconsin instituted a statutory provision requiring the disclosure of litigation funding arrangements. West Virginia followed suit in 2019.
In 2021, the U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey amended its rules to require disclosures about third-party litigation funding in cases before the court. The Northern District of California imposed a similar rule in 2017 for class, mass, and collective actions throughout the district.
In 2022, Illinois passed the Consumer Legal Funding Act (S.B. 1099), which implemented several statutory provisions regulating aspects of third-party litigation funding, but it doesn’t address disclosure of these arrangements or information about the existence of a funding arrangement to defendants as part of claim litigation.
Litigation funding not only drives up costs – it introduces motives beyond achieving just results to the judicial process. This is why the practice was once widely prohibited in the United States. As these bans have been eroded in recent decades, litigation funding has grown, spread, and morphed into forms that can cost plaintiffs more in interest than they might otherwise gain in a settlement. In fact, it can encourage lengthier litigation to the detriment of all involved – except for the funders and the plaintiff attorneys.Top of Form
“Litigation funding is a multi-billion-dollar industry that for years has driven up the length and cost of civil cases,” said Neil Alldredge, president and chief executive officer of NAMIC. “While there is much more that needs to be done to address this issue, this law represents important progress.”
Revealing litigation funding from a third party before commencement of a lawsuit “will help thwart opportunistic investors from promoting return on investment over client interests and siphoning value from clients away from policyholders, claimants and insurers,” Alldredge said.
Michigan’s no-fault system reform law, effective in 2020, has led to personal auto insurers paying out fewer claims and many drivers paying less in premiums, according to recent research by two Triple-I nonresident scholars.
The study, No Fault Auto Insurance Reform in Michigan: An Initial Assessment, co-authored by Patricia Born, Ph.D. of Florida State University and Robert Klein, Ph.D. of Temple University, observed substantial decreases in average liability premiums and personal injury protection (PIP) loss costs in 2022. PIP covers the treatment of injuries to the driver and passengers of the policyholder’s car in a no-fault auto insurance system.
“Our initial evaluation of the likely effects of the reform legislation indicates that it is significantly reducing the costs of auto insurance for many Michigan drivers,” the paper states. “How much these reductions will be for any given driver will depend on the PIP option they choose, among other factors.”
The average Michigan policyholder paid $2,611 annually for personal auto insurance coverage in 2019 and $2,133 in 2022, an 18 percent decrease, according to Insure.com. Before the state’s no-fault auto insurance system reform law took effect in July 2020, Michigan regularly ranked as one of the costliest states in the U.S. for personal auto insurance coverage.
The 2020 reform law’s enactment allowed for:
Reducing auto insurer payouts of high PIP medical benefits;
Instituting medical cost controls;
Broadening the state’s authority to regulate personal auto insurance rate filings;
Creating a Fraud Investigation Unit within the Department of Insurance and Financial Services; and
Restricting auto insurer use of “non-driving” rating factors (e.g., credit-based insurance scores).
Michigan was the only state to offer unlimited medical benefits through the PIP portion of an auto insurance policy. Insurers also were severely constrained in controlling the medical costs arising from PIP claims. This cost contributed to more than one in four drivers (26 percent) on Michigan’s roadways being uninsured in 2019, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) estimated, nearly twice the national average (13 percent). Michigan is one of 12 no-fault states in the U.S. These systems allow policyholders to file claims with their own insurer after an accident, regardless of whom caused the accident. No-fault states restrict lawsuits to serious cases and promote faster claim payouts.
The Louisiana property insurance market has been deteriorating since the state was hit by a record level of hurricane activity during the 2020/2021 seasons, Triple-I says in a new Issues Brief on the state’s insurance crisis. Twelve insurers that write homeowners coverage in Louisiana were declared insolvent between July 2021 and February 2023.
“While similarities exist between the situations in these two hurricane-prone states, the underlying causes of their insurance woes are different in important ways,” said Mark Friedlander, Triple-I’s director of corporate communications. “Florida’s problems are largely rooted in decades of litigation abuse and fraud, whereas Louisiana’s troubles have had more to do with insurers being undercapitalized and not having enough reinsurance to withstand the claims incurred during the record-setting hurricane seasons of 2020 and 2021.”
Insurers have paid out more than $23 billion in insured losses from over 800,000 claims filed from the two years of heavy hurricane activity. The largest property loss events were Hurricane Laura (2020) and Hurricane Ida (2021). The growing volume of losses also drove a dozen insurers to voluntarily withdraw from the market and more than 50 to stop writing new business in hurricane-prone parishes.
This is not to say legal system abuse is absent as a factor in the Louisiana’s crisis – quite the opposite, as highlighted by Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon’s cease-and-desist order, issued in February, against a Houston-based law firm. According to Donelon, the firm filed more than 1,500 hurricane claim lawsuits in Louisiana over the span of three months last year.
“The size and scope of McClenny, Moseley & Associates’ illegal insurance scheme is like nothing I’ve seen before,” Donelon said. “It’s rare for the department to issue regulatory actions against entities we don’t regulate, but in this case, the order is necessary to protect policyholders from the firm’s fraudulent insurance activity.”
McClenny Moseley has since been suspended from practice in Louisiana’s Western District federal court over its work on Hurricane Laura insurance cases.
A regular on the American Tort Reform Foundation’s “Judicial Hellholes” list, Louisiana’s “onerous bad faith laws contribute significantly to inflated claims payments and awards,” according to a joint paper published by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association (APCIA), the Reinsurance Association of America (RAA), and the Association of Bermuda Insurers and Reinsurers (ABIR).
“Insurers who fail to pay claims or make a written offer to settle within 30 days of proof of loss may face penalties of up to 50 percent of the amount due, even for purely technical violations,” the paper notes. “To avoid incurring these massive penalties, which are meted out pursuant to highly subjective standards of conduct, insurers sometimes feel compelled to pay more than the actual value of claims as the lesser of two evils.”
As a result of these converging contributors, Louisiana Citizens Property Insurance Corp. – the state-run insurer of last resort – has grown from 35,000 to 128,000 policyholders over the past two years, according to the Louisiana Department of Insurance.
At the end of 2022, the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report, Third-Party Litigation Financing: Market Characteristics, Data and Trends. Defining third-party litigation financing or funding (TPLF) as “an arrangement in which a funder who is not a party to the lawsuit agrees to help fund it,” the investigative arm of Congress looked at the global multibillion-dollar industry, which is raising concerns among insurers and some lawmakers.
The GAO findings summarize emerging trends, challenges for market participants, and the regulatory landscape, primarily focusing on the years between 2017 and 2021.
Why a regulatory lens on TPLF is important
The agency conducted this research to study gaps in public information about the industry’s practices and examine transparency and disclosure concerns. Three Republican Congress members – Sen. Chuck Grassley (IA), Rep. Andy Barr (KY), and Rep. Darrell Issa (CA) — led the call for this undertaking.
However, as GAO exists to serve the entire Congress, it is expected to be independent and nonpartisan in its work. While insurers, TPLF insiders, and other stakeholders, including Triple-I, have researched the industry (to the extent that research on such a secretive industry is possible), the legislative-based agency is well positioned to apply a regulatory perspective.
The report methodology involved several components, many of which other researchers have applied, such as analysis of publicly available industry data, reviews of existing scholarship, legislation, and court rules. GAO probed further by convening a roundtable of 12 experts “selected to represent a mix of reviews and professional fields, among other factors,” and interviewing litigation funders and industry stakeholders. Nonetheless, like researchers before them, GAO faced a lack of public data on the industry.
Third-party litigation funding practices differ between the consumer and the commercial markets. Comparatively smaller loan amounts are at play for consumer cases. The types of clients, use of funds, and financial arrangements can also vary, even within each market.
While most published discussions of TPLF center on TPLF going to plaintiffs, as this appears from public data to be the norm, GAO findings indicate: 1) funders may finance defendants in certain scenarios and 2) lawyers may use TPLF to support their work for defense and plaintiff clients.
How the lack of transparency in TPLF can create risks
Overall, TPLF is categorized as a non-recourse loan because if the funded party loses the lawsuit or does not receive a monetary settlement, the loan does not have to be repaid. If the financed party wins the case or receives a monetary settlement, the profit comes from a relatively high interest payment or some agreed value above the original loan. Thus, the financial strategy boils down to someone gambling on the outcome of a claim or lawsuit with the expressed intention of making a hefty profit.
In some deals, these returns can soar as high as 220%–depending on the financial arrangements–with most reporting placing the average rates at 25-30 percent (versus average S&P 500 return since 1957 of 10.15 percent). The New Times documented that the TPLF industry is reaping as much as 33 percent from some of the most vulnerable in society, wrongly imprisoned people.
Usually, this speculative investor has no relationship to the civil litigation and, therefore, would not otherwise be involved with the case. However, the court and the opposing party of the lawsuit are typically unaware of the investment or even the existence of such an arrangement. On the other hand, as the GAO report affirms, knowledge about the defendant’s insurance may be one of the primary reasons third-party financers decide to invest in the lawsuit. This imbalance in communication and the overall lack of transparency spark worries for TPLF critics. GAO gathered information that highlighted some potential concerns.
Funded claimants may hold out for larger settlements simply because the funders’ fee (usually the loan repayment, plus high interest) erodes the claimant’s share of the settlement. Attorneys receiving TPLF may be more willing to draw out litigation further than they would have – perhaps in dedication to a weak cause or a desire to try out novel legal tactics – if they had to carry their own expenses.
Regardless, typically neither the court, the defendant, nor the defendant’s insurer would be aware of the factors behind such costly delays, so they would be unable to respond proactively. However, insurance consumers would ultimately pay the price via higher rates or no access to affordable insurance if an insurer leaves the local market.
As the report acknowledges, a lack of transparency can lead to other issues, too. If the court does not know about a TPLF arrangement, potential conflicts of interest cannot be flagged and monitored. Some critics calling for transparency have cited potential national security risks, such as the possibility of funders backed by foreign governments using the funding relationship to strategically impact litigation outcomes or co-opting the discovery process for access to intellectual property information that would otherwise be best kept away from their eyes for national security reasons.
Calls for TPLF Legislation
GAO findings from its comparative review of international markets reveal that the industry operates globally, essentially without much regulation. The report points out that while TPLF is not specifically regulated under U.S. federal law, some aspects of the industry and funder operations may fall under the purview of the SEC, particularly if funders have registered securities on a national securities exchange. Some states have passed laws regulating interest charged to consumers, and, in rarer instances, requiring a level of TPLF disclosure in prescribed circumstances.
Active, visible calls from elected officials for regulatory actions toward transparency come mostly from Republicans, but, nonetheless, from various levels of government. Sen. Grassley and Rep. Issa have tried to introduce legislation, The Litigation Funding Transparency Act of 2021, requiring mandatory disclosure of funding agreements in federal class action lawsuits and in federal multidistrict litigation proceedings. In December of 2022, Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr spearheaded a coalition of 14 state attorney generals that issued a written call to action to the Department of Justice and Attorney General Merrick Garland.
“By funding lawsuits that target specific sectors or businesses, foreign adversaries could weaponize our courts to effectively undermine our nation’s interests,” Carr said.
Florida is one of the least affordable states for personal auto insurance, according to a new study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC). Claims trends are pushing premium rates up nationwide, and Florida is being hit particularly hard.
In 2020, the average expenditure for auto insurance was $1,342 in Florida, more than 30 percent higher than the national average, the IRC report says, citing data from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC). In terms of affordability, IRC says, auto insurance expenditures were 2.39 percent of the median household income for the state. Only Louisiana was less affordable.
“Efforts to improve auto insurance affordability must begin with the underlying cost drivers,” the IRC report says. In nearly every of these categories, Florida costs are well above the national average:
Accident frequency: The number of property damage liability claims per 100 insured vehicles in Florida is 10 percent above the national average.
Repair costs: For years, the average cost of a property damage claim in Florida was below the national average. However, evidence suggests repair costs are increasing faster in Florida than elsewhere.
Injury claim relative frequency: Floridians show a greater propensity to file injury claims once an accident occurs, with a relative claim frequency 40 percent higher than the national average. Florida is the only no-fault state with an above-average ratio of bodily injury to property damage claim frequency.
Injury claim severity: The median amount paid per claim for auto injury insurance claims for all injury coverages combined is much higher in Florida.
Medical utilization: Florida auto claimants are more likely than those in other states to receive diagnostic procedures, such as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI).
Attorney involvement: Florida claimants are more likely to hire attorneys. Attorney involvement has been associated with higher claim costs and delays in settlement time.
Fraud and buildup: The percentage of all auto injury claims with the appearance of claim fraud and/or buildup is evidence of Florida’s culture of fraud.
Uninsured motorists: Florida has one of the highest rates of uninsured motorists, both a symptom and a cause of affordability challenges.
Litigation climate: According to a survey of business leaders, Florida’s legal environment ranks near the bottom of state liability systems in terms of fairness and reasonableness.
“Unique features in Florida’s insurance system and a long‐standing culture of claim and legal system abuse have allowed some medical and legal professionals to generate substantial income for themselves at a significant cost to Florida drivers,” said Dale Porfilio, IRC president and Triple-I chief insurance officer. Triple-I and IRC are both affiliated with The Institutes.
Policymakers in the Sunshine State enacted substantial property insurance reform in late 2022 to address the affordability and availability crisis in homeowners’ insurance and pledged to tackle similar issues in other lines of insurance to ease the financial burden that paying for auto insurance represents for Florida drivers.
Bills being addressed by the state’s Senate and House focus on significant tort reform to stop lawsuit abuse, including the elimination of one-way attorney fees for litigated auto claims and abolition of assignment of benefits for auto insurance claims — a generator of fraud and litigation. One-way attorney fees allow drivers who successfully sue their insurer to recoup attorney fees – but not the other way around.
Today’s inflationary conditions may increase interest for group captives – insurance companies owned by the organizations they insure – according to a new Triple-I Executive Brief.
Group captives recruit safety-conscious companies with better-than-average loss experience, with each member’s premium based on its own most recent five-year loss history. Additionally, the increased focus on pre-loss risk management and post-loss claims management can drive members’ premiums down even further by the second and third year of membership.
“Each owner makes a modest initial capital contribution,” states the paper, Group Captives: An Opportunity to Lower Cost of Risk. “The lines of coverage written typically are those with more predictable losses, such as workers compensation, general liability, and automobile liability and physical damage.”
With these benefits, the group captive model can help to control spiraling litigation costs. This is particularly important as attorney involvement in commercial auto claims – notably in the trucking industry – drives expensive litigation and settlement delays that inflate companies’ expenses.
Indeed, a 2020 report from the American Transportation Research Institute found that average verdicts in the U.S. trucking industry grew from approximately $2.3 million to almost $22.3 million between 2010 and 2018 – a 967 percent increase, with the potential for even higher verdicts looming.
Group captives can improve control over these costs through careful claims monitoring and review, often through providing additional layers of support that improves claims adjusting effectiveness and efficiency.
“Given that members’ premiums are derived from their own loss history, this is yet another way that they are able to lower their premiums, proactively managing and controlling the losses that do occur,” the Triple-I report mentions. “Group captives can provide a viable way to protect companies across several lines of casualty insurance. Their prominence is likely to grow as economic and litigation trends continue to increase costs.”
Most companies that join group captives are safety-conscious, despite often being entrepreneurial risk takers. “While they embrace the risk-reward trade-off, they’re not gamblers,” said Sandra Springer, SVP of Marketing for Captive Resources (CRI), a leading consultant to member-owned group captive insurance companies.
“They are successful, financially stable, well-run companies that have confidence in their own abilities and dedication to controlling and managing risk,” Springer added. “They believe they will outperform actuarial projections, and a large percentage of them do.”
Louisiana Insurance Commissioner Jim Donelon last week issued a cease-and-desist order against a Houston-based law firm, accusing it of fraud involving potentially hundreds of hurricane-related claims in his state.
“The size and scope of McClenny, Moseley & Associates’ illegal insurance scheme is like nothing I’ve seen before,” Donelon said in a press release. “It’s rare for the department to issue regulatory actions against entities we don’t regulate, but in this case, the order is necessary to protect policyholders from the firm’s fraudulent insurance activity.”
According to Donelon, the law firm filed more than 1,500 hurricane claim lawsuits in Louisiana over the span of three months last year.
The Louisiana property insurance market has been deteriorating since the state was hit by record hurricane activity in 2020 and 2021, to the extent that 11 insurers that write homeowners coverage in Louisiana were declared insolvent between July 2021 and September 2022. Insurers have paid out more than $23 billion in insured losses from over 800,000 claims filed from the two years of heavy hurricane activity. The largest property-loss events were Hurricane Laura (2020) and Hurricane Ida (2021).
In addition to driving insurer insolvencies, the growing losses have caused a dozen insurers to withdraw from the market and more than 50 to stop writing new business in hurricane-prone parishes.
Louisiana’s troubles parallel those of another coastal state, Florida, but there are significant differences. Florida’s problems are largely rooted in decades of legal system abuse and fraud, whereas Louisiana’s have had more to do with insurers being undercapitalized and not having enough reinsurance coverage to withstand the claims incurred during the record-setting hurricane seasons of 2020 and 2021. In general, Louisiana insurers have not experienced the level of excessive litigation that Florida insurers have faced.
“It now appears some trial attorneys are trying to take a page out of the Florida playbook by engaging in litigation abuse against Louisiana property insurers,” said Triple-I Director of Corporate Communications Mark Friedlander. “We commend Commissioner Donelon for quickly addressing these fraudulent practices.”
According to reporting by the Times Picayune/New Orleans Advocate, an investigation by the Louisiana Department of Insurance found the Houston-based firm engaged in insurance fraud and unfair trade practices through Alabama-based Apex Roofing and Restoration and has faced accusations of potentially criminal behavior in courts across the state. In one such case, the paper reported, a woman testified that she had never intended to retain the law firm when she hired the roofing company to fix her hurricane-damaged roof.
“The firm told her insurance company that it represented her and even filed a lawsuit on her behalf, though she said she was unaware of it,” the paper said.
Legal system abuse is a pervasive problem that contributes to higher costs for insurers and policyholders nationwide, as well as to rising costs generally, given the importance of insurance in development and commerce. Triple-I is committed to informing the discussion around this critical issue.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s proposed insurance fraud and legal system abuse reforms, announced this week for consideration during the legislative session that begins in March, would build on measures approved in the closing weeks of 2022 and go a long way toward fixing the state’s insurance crisis.
Legislation passed during the 2022 special session eliminated one-way attorney fees and assignment of benefits (AOB) arrangements for property insurance claims. Gov. DeSantis’s proposal would go further, eliminating these mechanisms and “attorney fee multipliers” for all lines of insurance.
“For decades, Florida has been considered a judicial hellhole due to excessive litigation and a legal system that benefitted the lawyers more than people who are injured,” DeSantis said in his announcement. “We are now working on legal reform that is more in line with the rest of the country and that will bring more businesses and jobs to Florida.”
Before the 2022 reforms, state law required insurers to pay the fees of homeowners insurance policyholders who successfully sued over claims, while shielding policyholders from paying insurers’ attorney fees when the policyholders lose. The legislation also eliminated AOBs – agreements in which property owners sign over their claims to contractors, who then work with insurers.
AOBs are a standard practice in insurance, but in Florida this consumer-friendly convenience has long served as a magnet for fraud. The state’s legal environment – including some of the most generous attorney-fee mechanisms in the country – has encouraged vendors and their attorneys to solicit unwarranted AOBs from tens of thousands of Floridians, conduct unnecessary or unnecessarily expensive work, then sue insurers that deny or dispute the claims.
As a result, Florida accounts for nearly 80 percent of the nation’s homeowners’ insurance lawsuits, but only 9 percent of claims, according to the state’s Office of Insurance Regulation.
Eliminating these two mechanisms for property claims addresses much of the insurance fraud in the state. Eliminating them for all lines would be a promising sign that the state is truly committed to addressing the root causes of the crisis.
Florida’s insurance crisis didn’t happen overnight, and it will take years for the impacts of fraud and legal system abuse to be wrung out of the system. Policyholders won’t see premium benefits any time soon. Job 1 is to “stop the bleeding” as insurers fail, leave the state, or stop writing critical personal lines coverages like auto and homeowners.
Triple-I has published a new Issues Brief about the crisis and the state’s efforts to repair it.
Legislation being considered in Illinois underscores the need for legislators and other policymakers to become better educated about the importance of risk-based pricing and how it works.
The Motor Vehicle Insurance Fairness Act would bar insurers from considering nondriving factors, such as credit scores, when setting premium rates. The prohibitions include factors that actuaries have demonstrated correlate strongly with the likelihood of a driver eventually submitting a claim, as well as ones insurers already are prohibited from using.
This suggests a lack of understanding about risk-based pricing that is not isolated to Illinois legislators – indeed, similar proposals are submitted from time to time at state and federal levels.
Confusion is understandable
Risk-based pricing means offering different prices for the same coverage, based on risk factors specific to the insured person or property. If policies were not priced this way, lower-risk drivers would subsidize riskier ones. Charging higher premiums to higher-risk policyholders helps insurers underwrite a wider range of coverages, improving both availability and affordability of insurance.
The concept becomes complicated when actuarially sound rating factors intersect with other attributes in ways that can be perceived as unfairly discriminatory. For example, concerns are raised about the use of credit-based insurance scores, geography, home ownership, and motor vehicle records in setting home and car insurance premium rates. Critics say this can lead to “proxy discrimination,” with people of color in urban neighborhoods being charged more than their suburban neighbors for the same coverage.
Confusion is understandable, given the complex models used to assess and price risk. To navigate this complexity, insurers hire actuaries and data scientists to quantify and differentiate among a range of risk variables while avoiding unfair discrimination.
Appropriate protections are in place
It’s important to remember that insurers don’t make money by notinsuring people. They are in the business of pricing, underwriting, and assuming risk.
Because of the critical role insurers play in facilitating commerce and protecting the lives and property of individuals, insurance is one of the most heavily regulated industries on the planet. To ensure that sufficient funds are available to pay claims, regulators require insurers to maintain a cushion called policyholder surplus.
Credit rating agencies, such as Standard & Poor’s and A.M. Best, expect insurers to have surpluses exceeding what regulators require to keep their financial strength ratings. A strong financial strength rating enables insurers to borrow money at favorable rates – further promoting insurance availability and affordability.
On top of these constraints, state regulators have the authority to limit the rates insurers can charge within their jurisdictions.
No profit, no insurers — no insurers, no coverage
Like any other business, insurers must make a reasonable profit to remain solvent. Because they can’t just move money around as more lightly regulated industries can, the only way to generate underwriting profits is through rigorous pricing and expense and loss controls. Insurers don’t want to overcharge and send consumers shopping for a better price, or undercharge and experience losses that erode their ability to pay claims.
In this context, it’s important to note that personal auto and homeowners insurance premium rates have remained relatively flat as inflation and replacement costs have soared through the pandemic and supply-chain issues related to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine (see chart below).
During this period, writers of these coverages have struggled to turn an underwriting profit. Personal auto has been a primary driver of the overall industry’s weak underwriting results. Dale Porfilio, Triple-I’s chief insurance officer, recently said the 2022 net combined ratio for personal auto insurance is forecast at 111.8, 10.4 points worse than 2021 and 19.3 points worse than 2020. Combined ratio represents the difference between claims and expenses paid and premiums collected by insurers. A combined ratio below 100 represents an underwriting profit, and one above 100 represents a loss.
Even as inflation moderates, loss trends in both of these lines – associated with increased accident frequency and severity in auto and extreme-weather trends in homeowners and auto – will require premium rates to rise. The question is: Will the cost fall evenly across all policyholders, or will rates more accurately reflect policyholders’ risk characteristics?
The United States recognizes “protected classes” – groups who share common characteristics and for whom federal or state laws prohibit discrimination based on those traits. Race, religion, and national origin are most commonly meant when describing protected classes in the context of insurance rating, and insurers generally do not collect information on these “big three” classes. Any discrimination based on these attributes would have to arise from using data that might serve as proxies for protected classes.
Algorithms and machine learning hold great promise for ensuring equitable pricing, but research shows these tools can amplify implicit biases.
The insurance industry has been responsive to such concerns. For example, recent Colorado legislation requires insurers to show that their use of external data and complex algorithms does not discriminate against protected classes, and the American Academy of Actuaries has offered extensive guidance to the state’s insurance commissioner on implementation. The Casualty Actuarial Society also recently published a series of papers (see links at end of post) on the topic.
Certain demographic factors have been shown to correlate with increased risk of submitting a claim. Gender and age correlate strongly with crash involvement, as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) data illustrated at right shows.
Likewise, National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) data below clearly shows higher credit scores correlate strongly with lower crash claims.
Similar correlations can be shown for other rating factors. It’s important to remember that no single factor is determinative – many are used to assess a policyholder’s risk level.
Consumers “get it” – when it’s explained to them
A recent study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) found consumer skepticism about the connection between credit history and future insurance claims appears to decline when the predictive power of credit-based insurance scores is explained to them. Through an online survey with more than 7,000 respondents, IRC found that:
Nearly all believe it is important to maintain good credit history, and most believe it would be “very” or “somewhat” easy to improve their credit score;
Consumers see the link between credit history and future bill paying but are less confident about the link between credit history and future insurance claims.
After reading that many studies have demonstrated its predictive power, most agree with using credit-based insurance scores to rate insurance, especially for drivers with good credit who could benefit.
If consumers “get it” when you share the data with them, perhaps policymakers and legislators can, too.
Florida legislation proposed last week would prevent the state’s motorists from assigning their legal rights in auto insurance claims to repair shops.
Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a standard practice in the insurance world. In Florida, however, this efficient, customer-friendly way to settle claims has long served as a magnet for fraud. The state’s legal environment has encouraged vendors and their attorneys to solicit unwarranted AOBs from tens of thousands of Floridians, conduct unnecessary or unnecessarily expensive work, then file tens of thousands of lawsuits against insurers that deny or dispute the claims.
Legislation approved in the closing weeks of 2022 took several crucial steps toward resolving the state’s property/casualty insurance crisis, including elimination of the state’s AOB laws with respect to property claims. But it didn’t affect auto-related AOBs.
Intended to help consumers
Florida’s auto glass law – originally intended to encourage drivers to repair or replace damaged windshields by prohibiting insurers from charging deductibles for windshield damage – is being exploited by glass-repair shops all over Florida. Unscrupulous vendors hire workers to canvas neighborhoods, enticing vehicle owners to sign up for “free” windshield replacements. They get car owners to sign an AOB contract that assigns the owners’ legal rights to the repair shop.
The shop then can sue the consumer’s insurer if it doesn’t pay what the shop demands. The result is a lawsuit by the vendor in the consumer’s name.
Lawyers have a strong incentive to file suits, as the insurer is required to pay their fees if it loses in court. This has resulted in a “sue-to-settle” system, in which lawyers file suits over very small disputes to force a settlement.
Hope for the future
“What began as a small regional issue a decade ago with a few lawyers and some auto repair shops has blown up to become a major problem throughout the state,” said Mark Friedlander, Triple-I’s director of corporate communications and a Florida resident. Between 2011 and 2021, the number of auto glass lawsuits in Florida rose more than 4,000 percent, from 591 to more than 28,000. A National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) analysis found that Florida had the highest number of questionable auto-glass claims among the 50 states in 2020.
WhileFlorida is a “no-fault” state – meaning both parties in an accident submit claims to their own insurer, regardless of fault – it ranks high for attorney involvement in accident claims, the Insurance Research Council (IRC) has found. Attorney involvement is associated with higher costs, and IRC also has found Florida to be among the least affordable auto insurance markets.
The new measure, filed for the 2023 legislative session that starts March 7, offers hope that Florida is finally serious about solving the decades-old mechanisms that have fed the state’s current insurance crisis. Taken together, the two pieces of legislation will help stabilize Florida’s insurance market, but it will take years for the impacts of fraud and legal system abuse to be wrung out of the system.