Tag Archives: Claims

Auto Premiums Climbing;
Are They “Affordable”?

Car insurance premiums have risen steadily since 2009 at a faster pace than inflation, according to a recent paper in the Journal of Insurance Regulation.

Transportation is essential to opportunity in the United States. Cost of driving, therefore, isn’t a trivial issue.

When you hear a stat like that, what’s your instinctive response? To blame “greedy insurers” who are making money hand over fist and still aren’t satisfied? It might be, if you don’t follow insurance profitability trends. If you do, you know they’ve been losing money on auto insurance for years, despite increasing rates.

Rising rates have caused some to call for regulation to help make car insurance more affordable. Transportation is essential to opportunity in the United States, and most Americans rely on cars. Cost of driving, therefore, isn’t a trivial issue.

But the authors of the paper – Cost Trends and Affordability of Automobile Insurance in the U.S. –  found rate regulation could do more harm than good.

Frequency and severity

The year 2009 was the beginning of the end of the “Great Recession.” In a recovering economy, more people drive – to work, stores, restaurants, et cetera. More vehicles traveling more miles means more accidents and more insurance claims.

The insurance term for this is “frequency.” In addition to more cars on the road, the report finds, distracted driving due to use of digital devices may contribute to increased accident frequency.

In an improving economy, more cars are on the road. More vehicles mean more accidents and insurance claims. Distracted driving due to use of hand-held digital devices also may contribute to increased accident frequency.

Another key term is “severity” – the average cost of claims. Severity has been high for several reasons:

Safety and fuel efficiency are expensive. Cars are safer and cheaper to operate than ever before – thanks to sensors and computers and new materials, all of which are expensive to repair or replace after an accident. This affects loss costs, which are reflected in premiums.

Medical costs are on the rise – especially for hospitalization. The paper cites U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics data showing that medical and auto insurance inflation growth track closely and hospital cost inflation by far outstrips both. Since many crash victims wind up in the hospital, it’s possible these costs aren’t fully reflected in insurance rates.  The paper also cites research indicating that hospitals may charge insurers more than other payers.

Litigation and generous juries. The report doesn’t go into detail about litigation, but the trend known as “social inflation” – marked by growing jury awards and “litigation funding,” in which investors pay plaintiffs to sue large companies in return for a share in the settlement – is well documented.

These factors drive up rates as insurers seek a return that justifies risk taking and operational spending. Nevertheless, the report finds no correlation between rising rates and insurer profitability.

Cracking the affordability nut

Literature on insurance affordability is diverse, with little consensus on the key term. The paper cites research that strongly suggests aggressive rate regulation actually reduces affordability.

“When rate regulation suppresses costs for the riskiest insureds,” the study states, “average premiums, losses, and injuries increase.”

So, what might improve auto insurance affordability?

Some contributors to rising rates – such as repair costs – “should partially self-correct over time,” the paper says. Others, like medical costs and “non-economic” damages (pain and suffering awards) could be addressed through changes in personal injury protection (PIP) laws, antifraud efforts, transparency in medical pricing, or civil justice reform. Stricter “distracted driving” laws and improved enforcement of existing ones could help reduce losses and premiums.

Insurers are investing in technology and improved analytics to streamline their workflows, improve service, and bolster their bottom lines. Some are even discussing getting out of auto entirely – which, should it become a trend, would not bode well for affordability or availability.

Cyber Claims Get Paid; 
Why Do Many Businesses
Believe They Don’t?

There’s a road in my town that’s widely regarded as a speed trap. We all know drivers who say they were unfairly stopped and ticketed on it. I’ve never been and, come to think of it, neither has anyone I talk to about it.  Maybe it’s because we live in town and “everyone knows” about the trap.

Cyber is a relatively new, evolving risk. Insurers manage their exposures, in part, by setting coverage limits and excluding events they don’t want to insure.

Sure, people get ticketed. The road is straight and wide, and I guess some feel they should be able to drive faster than the clearly posted speed limit. Or maybe they think the “real” limit is somewhat north of the number posted.

Is that really a “speed trap”?

I think of this road when I hear people say they don’t buy cyber insurance because “everyone knows” cyber claims don’t get paid.

Poster child for “cyber” denial

The example on everyone’s lips when this topic comes up is Mondelez International, the food and beverage giant hit by the NotPetya ransomware attack in 2017. Mondelez incurred losses exceeding $100 million, and its insurer denied coverage based on a war exclusion.

The irony? The policy in question covered property, not cyber. One can argue – as Mondelez does in a lawsuit –  that the war exclusion is being unfairly applied, but businesses aren’t ceasing to buy property insurance on account of it!

Cyber claims data are hard to come by, but for nine years NetDiligence has published a Cyber Claims Study analyzing paid claims. The 2019 study looks at more than 2,000 such claims aggregated in over 20 ways, including types and amounts of losses, incident causes, data types exposed, business sectors affected, revenue size of claimants, and financial impact.

Verisk, whose cyber products help insurers write coverage based on their policyholders’ risk characteristics, doesn’t publish claims data but aggregates and incorporates them into its analytics.

NetDiligence publishes an annual Cyber Claims Study. Verisk aggregates and incorporates claims data into its analytics. Why do so many believe cyber claims don’t get paid?
Why the perception/reality gap?

Cyber is a relatively new, evolving risk. Insurers manage their exposures, in part, by setting coverage limits and excluding events they don’t want to insure. Indeed, in a recent survey by J.D. Power and the Insurance Information Institute, small-business owners named “too many exclusions” among the top reasons they don’t buy cyber coverage.

Claims are often denied because of exclusions policyholders might not have known about or understood. Some insurers, for example, include “failure to follow” exclusions for claims arising from inadequate security standards.

Everyone’s responsibility

If insurers want businesses to buy cyber policies and not be hit with unpleasant surprises at claims time, they need to be aggressively transparent about what’s included and excluded. Relegating this to fine print is not a good strategy.

Brokers and agents need to educate themselves about their clients’ needs and be fastidious in aligning coverage recommendations with those needs.

And insurance buyers – those with most at stake – need to understand cyber perils and insurance. For example, insurers require a cyber hygiene self-assessment from applicants. If, after an incident, that assessment proves inaccurate – say, if encryption practices were misrepresented – coverage can be denied.

Insurance isn’t a replacement for cyber diligence. But it can complement it as part of a well-planned risk management program.