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New Illinois BillsWould Harm — Not Help — Auto Policyholders

Two bills proposed in Illinois this year illustrate yet again the need for lawmakers to better understand how insurance works. Illinois HB 4767 and HB 4611 – like their 2023 predecessor, HB 2203 – would harm the very policyholders the measures aim to help by driving up the cost for insurers to write personal auto coverage in the state.

“These bills, while intended to address rising insurance costs, would have the opposite impact and likely harm consumers by reducing competition and increasing costs for Illinois drivers,” said a press release issued by the American Property Casualty Insurance Association, the Illinois Insurance Association, and the National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies. “Insurance rates are first and foremost a function of claims and their costs. Rather than working to help make roadways safer and reduce costs, these bills seek to change the state’s insurance rating law and prohibit the use of factors that are highly predictive of the risk of a future loss.”

The proposed laws would bar insurers from considering nondriving factors that are demonstrably predictive of claims when setting premium rates.

“Prohibiting highly accurate rating factors…disconnects price from the risk of future loss, which necessarily means high-risk drivers will pay less and lower-risk drivers will pay more than they otherwise would pay,” the release says. “Additionally, changing the rating law and factors used will not change the economics or crash statistics that are the primary drivers of the cost of insurance in the state.”

Triple-I agrees with the key concerns raised by the other trade organizations. As we have written previously, such legislation 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.

What is risk-based pricing?

Simply put, risk-based pricing means offering different prices for the same level of coverage, based on risk factors specific to the insured person or property. If policies were not priced this way – if insurers had to come up with a one-size-fits-all price for auto coverage that didn’t consider vehicle type and use, where and how much the car will be driven, and so forth – lower-risk drivers would subsidize riskier ones. Risk-based pricing allows insurers to offer the lowest possible premiums to policyholders with the most favorable risk factors. Charging higher premiums to insure higher-risk policyholders enables insurers to underwrite a wider range of coverages, thus improving both availability and affordability of insurance.

This simple concept becomes complicated when actuarially sound rating factors intersect with other attributes in ways that can be perceived as unfairly discriminatory. For example, concerns have been 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 sometimes charged more than their suburban neighbors for the same coverage.

The confusion is understandable, given the complex models used to assess and price risk and the socioeconomic dynamics involved. To navigate this complexity, insurers hire teams of actuaries and data scientists to quantify and differentiate among a range of risk variables while avoiding unfair discrimination.

While it may be hard for policyholders to believe factors like age, gender, and credit score have anything to do with their likelihood of filing claims, the charts below demonstrate clear correlations.

Policyholders have reasonable concerns about rising premium rates. It’s important for them and their legislators to understand that the current high-rate environment has nothing to do with the application of actuarially sound rating factors and everything to do with increasing insurer losses associated with higher frequency and severity of claims. Frequency and claims trends are driven by a wide range of causes – such as riskier driving behavior and legal system abuse – that warrant the attention of policymakers. Legislators would do well to explore ways to reduce risks, contain fraud other forms of legal system abuse, and improve resilience, rather than pursuing “solutions” to restrict pricing that will only make these problem worse.

Learn More

New Triple-I Issues Brief Takes a Deep Dive into Legal System Abuse

Illinois Bill Highlights Need for Education on Risk-Based Pricing of Insurance Coverage

How Proposition 103 Worsens Risk Crisis in California

Louisiana Still Least Affordable State for Personal Auto, Homeowners Insurance

IRC Outlines Florida’s Auto Insurance Affordability Problems

Education Can Overcome Doubts on Credit-Based Insurance Scores, IRC Survey Suggests

Colorado’s Life Insurance Data Rules Offer Glimpse of Future for P&C Writers

It’s Not an “Insurance Crisis” – It’s a Risk Crisis

Indiana Joins March Toward Disclosure of Third-Party Litigation Funding Deals

Litigation Funding Law Found Lacking in Transparency Department

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New Triple-I Issue Brief Takes a Deep Dive into Legal System Abuse

The increasing frequency and severity of claims costs beyond insurer expectations continue to threaten insurance coverage and affordability. Triple-I’s latest Issue Brief, Legal System Abuse – State of the Risk describes how trends in claims litigation can drive social inflation, leading to higher insurance premiums for policyholders and losses for insurers.

Key Takeaways

  • Insured losses continue to exceed expectations and surpass inflation, notably impacting coverage affordability and availability in Florida and Louisiana.
  • In promoting the term “legal system abuse”, Triple-I seeks to capture how litigation and related systemic trends amplify social inflation.
  • Progress has been made toward increased awareness about the risks of third-party litigation funding (TPLF), but more work is needed.

What we mean when we talk about legal system abuse

Legal system abuse occurs when policyholders, plaintiff attorneys, or other third parties use fraudulent or unnecessary tactics in pursuing an insurance claim payout, increasing the time and cost of settling insurance claims. These actions can include illegal maneuvers, such as claims inflation and frivolous or outright fraudulent claims. Unscrupulous contractors, for example, seek to profit from Assignment of Benefits (AOBs) by overstating repair costs and then filing lawsuits against the insurer – sometimes even without the homeowner’s knowledge. Filing a lawsuit to reap an outsized payout when it’s evident the claims process will likely provide a fair, reasonable, and timely claim settlement can also be considered legal system abuse.

The latest brief provides a round-up of several studies Triple-I and other organizations conducted on elements of these litigation trends. The report, “Impact of Increasing Inflation on Personal and Commercial Auto Liability Insurance,” describes the $96 billion to $105 billion increase in combined claim payouts for U.S. personal and commercial auto insurer liability. The Insurance Research Council highlighted the dire lack of affordability for personal auto and homeowners insurance coverage in Louisiana, along with the state’s exceptionally high claim litigation rates.

Readers will also find an update on the discussion of legal industry trends associated with increased claims litigation. The lack of transparency around TPLF arrangements and the fear of outside influence on cases are attracting the attention of legislators at the state and federal levels. The brief also describes how some law firms may use TPLF resources to encourage large windfall-seeking lawsuits instead of speedy and fair claims litigation. Research findings suggest that consumers have become aware of how ubiquitous attorney ads can influence the frequency of lawsuits, increasing claims costs.

Florida: a case study in the consequences of excessive litigation

While several states, such as California, Colorado, and Louisiana, are experiencing a drastic rise in the cost of homeowners’ insurance, this brief discusses Florida. Property insurance premiums there rank the highest in the nation. Several insurers facing insurmountable losses have stopped writing new policies or left the state in the last few years. In some areas, residents are leaving, too, because of skyrocketing premiums.

Excessive claims litigation isn’t a new issue for insurers, but it can work with other elements to shift loss ratios and disrupt forecasts, rendering cost management more challenging. In Florida, factors such as the rise in home values and frequency of extreme weather events play a significant role, along with the challenges homeowners face in the aftermath: soaring construction costs, supply chain bottlenecks, and new building codes. However, Florida also leads the nation in litigating property claims. While 15 percent of all homeowners claims in the nation originate in the state, Floridians file 71 percent of homeowners insurance lawsuits.

In Florida and elsewhere, increasing time to settle a claim puts a financial strain on insurers, which is passed on to policyholders in the form of higher premiums. Legal system abuse activities are difficult (if not impossible) to forecast and mitigate, hampering insurers’ ability to remain in the market. Therefore, legal system abuse could be one of the biggest underlying drivers of social inflation. Without preventive measures, such as policy intervention and increased policyholder awareness, coverage affordability and availability is at risk.

Triple-I remains committed to advancing the conversation and exploring actionable strategies with all stakeholders. Learn more about legal system abuse and its components, such as third-party litigation funding by following our blog and checking out our social inflation knowledge hub.