Ask the average punter in the street what they think about insurers and the answer you will get would probably be unprintable. The gist would be that they take your premiums without any problems and then make every effort not to pay out. Most people will accept that insurers have to prevent fraud but they will tell you that insurers make everyone feel like a fraudster as a result – and that is unacceptable.
At Insurance Times we know that is not true. Or is it? A Scottish judge has just instructed Independent Insurance to pay out money to ill coal miners after the insurer tried not to pay a series of what the judge deemed to be legitimate claims. And motor insurer Provident is trying to countersue the parents and childminder of a young boy knocked down by one of its insured drivers. It claims the carers were responsible for the boy and should not have let him on the road in the first place and should have made him wear a cycle helmet to reduce any damage.
These cases, and others like them, do the industry no favours. Yes, fight fraudulent cases, campaign for tougher sentences for villains, deal firmly (but fairly) with those who are underinsured. But think long and hard about the messages sent out when fighting cases such as these.
Cases are worth fighting, insurers will argue. But they are often wrong, even if they win the individual cases. Privilege recently won a case where it wanted to pay out less to wife of a motorcyclist killed by one of its insured drivers because, unbeknown to the wife – who was the innocent party – the motorcyclist had a mistress on the bike with him.
The insurer won that case, but only strictly in legal terms. The insurance industry as a whole was the loser.
If we keep undermining public confidence, the industry can kiss goodbye to selling more policies.