Danny Healy Rae and Tánaiste Fitzgerald Talk About Motor Insurance

Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD and Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy Rae.
Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD and Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy Rae discussing the insurance premium crisis in Dáil Éireann.

Kerry Independent TD Danny Healy Rae and Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality, Frances Fitzgerald TD engaged in the little to-ing and fro-ing in Dáil Éireann on Thursday on the increasingly thorny issue of outlandish motor insurance quotations.

It’s a situation which Deputy Healy Rae has labeled ‘a crisis’ throughout the country.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: The cost of insurance is still a serious problem for practically everyone. The old and young cannot pay the premiums that are now being demanded. An elderly person of 72 or 73 who never had an accident must now pay €710. This has risen from €350, despite the fact that the man is driving the same car. It has passed its test, everything is perfect and the man has made no claim. This is the way it is going.

Youngsters starting out in the world should get a chance unless they do something wrong but they are being penalised from the start. Young fellows who want to drive to work are getting quotations of €5,000 and €6,000.

With regard to transport, the quotations for lorry drivers have increased from €2,000 to €5,000. One transport company that was paying €75,000 is being quoted €250,000 for next year. This company will not be able to stay in business. Buses, especially school buses, have been affected. Quotations have risen from €2,000 to €4,000; they have doubled. Many school bus contractors are tied into contracts for the next three or four years, and some for up to five years. They will not be able to stay in business.

An elderly woman who contacted me paid €330 last year but was quoted €810 for the coming year. One of her sons rang the insurance company. He, having a lot of vehicles, asked what was going on with his mother and he managed to reduce the premium back to €330. Things like this need to be explained.

The cost of public liability insurance for businesses has gone mad. Companies are now trying to decide whether to keep going and they are analysing how much it would cost to get out of business. Homes threatened by flooding can get no insurance. The authorities will not clear the rivers. It is well known the houses are not sinking, but the rivers are rising.

An insurance broker has told me there has been a huge increase in the number and value of claims. Claimants cannot lose because some solicitors work on a no-foal, no-fee basis. The Personal Injuries Assessment Board is dealing with only 20% of claims now. Minor claims for whiplash amount to £7,600 in England whereas the figure in Ireland is €19,400. Up to €77,000 is claimed for serious whiplash in this country. Some solicitors are blatantly advertising for claimants, and insurance claims are not being fought because 70% of cases are being won. England, France and other countries are paying a lot less in the case of such claims.

An Tánaiste: This is a very important issue. Rising costs have been a concern. The Deputy has outlined a number of individual cases of rising costs for people seeking to renew their premiums. He mentioned both car insurance and the difficulty in obtaining insurance in other areas, including in respect of flooding. This is an issue we take very seriously. We will have a report from the working group in which Minister of State Deputy Eoghan Murphy has been involved before the end of the year. We will certainly accept any initiatives or recommendations from that working group, which has been examining the specific issues the Deputy raised. We will take on board the initiatives and recommendations and I am sure we will have a debate on the report in the Dáil once it becomes available. It will be available by the end of the year and it will examine the very issues the Deputy raised here this morning.

The Deputy will be aware that Minister of State Deputy Canney has been working with representatives of the insurance sector in respect of cases where families and individuals have not been able to get flood insurance for their homes. He is seeking a solution. I met representatives of the insurance industry last week to discuss various issues – for example, the issue of people who seek insurance but who do not produce a driving licence. Apparently, it is not compulsory at present, as the Deputy is probably aware. There are drivers who are unlicensed and without insurance, and they end up costing tens of millions of euro every year. Therefore, the insurance industry needs to act itself in regard to a range of issues.

The Deputy raised the broader question of costs and claims. A number of Bills are to be introduced in regard to settlements and agreements. Periodic payments are separate but there are new initiatives in regard to payments in court. There will be more efficient court practices dealing with people who break the law, including by carrying out road traffic offences. All this will make a difference. A range of initiatives will, I hope, see improvements regarding the increases the Deputy has been outlining.

Deputy Danny Healy-Rae: One solicitor boasted on Facebook that he got €80,000 for a girl making a claim. He said that if others have similar cases, they should come to him so he can do the same for them. There are serial claimants and they need to be dealt with. They need to be put on a list and action needs to be taken in regard to them. The fraud squad or some other squad needs to be sent after them because they have the country ruined and they have people driven down through the ground. We have enough reports and studies; we want action now. I ask the Minister to take action on fraudulent claims.

Some of what Mr. Quinn did was not correct but he also did a lot of good. He revolutionised how claims were dealt with. He dealt with them before they went legal. We must take positive action now, and the fraud squad or some other squad must be put into action to deal with these people. We have had enough reports and studies; we want action.

An Tánaiste: It is important to have an evidence-based report. We will have it very shortly. I understand the Deputy’s impatience but we will have the report before the end of the year. It will give us detailed information based on evidence the committee has been gathering. I assure the Deputy that we intend to take action. Once we have the report, we will act on the recommendations therein to deal with the circumstances the Deputy has outlined so comprehensively this morning.

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