“Social inflation” is the name used to describe growth in liability risks and costs related to litigation trends. A new white paper by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) examines this phenomenon and shows that insurers’ losses across several business lines have accelerated rapidly in recent years – much more rapidly than economic inflation alone can explain.
Some have tried to downplay the importance of social inflation and even cast doubt on its existence. The IRC study draws from a range of industry and scholarly resources to show that it does exist and hurts individuals and businesses who rely on insurance.
Among the drivers the IRC examines are:
- Shifts in public sentiment about litigation
- Increasing numbers of very large jury verdicts
- Tort reform rollbacks
- Legislative actions to retroactively extend or repeal statutes of limitation
- Increased attorney advertising and involvement in liability claims
- Proliferation of class actions
- Emergence and growth of third-party litigation financing
Using loss data published by the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), the IRC documents loss trends in several key insurance lines, including commercial and personal auto insurance and product liability coverage. The report notes that loss trends reflected in the data “are consistent with anecdotal observations and concerns about the impact of social inflation on insurance claims costs.”
The IRC links these trends to rising claims and losses that in turn lead to more expensive insurance for businesses and consumers. While the analysis is based on data and trends that predate the COVID-19 pandemic, the IRC notes that state efforts to impose business interruption coverage for economic losses under insurance policies that specifically exclude bacteria and virus-related losses are a current example of the forces that drive social inflation.
Social Inflation: Evidence and Impact on Property-Casualty Insurance is a valuable resource that explains the causes and impacts of social inflation. It can be downloaded from the IRC website.