Singapore

Motor insurance claims up despite fall in accidents

Sector incurred underwriting loss of $12.6m for first half of year

Motor accidents are becoming more severe and possibly involving more serious injuries, going by first-half results released by the General Insurance Association (GIA) yesterday.

It said there had been a "significantly higher increase" of 11.8 per cent in incurred motor insurance claims, totalling $291.3 million for the interim period, despite a dip of 4.3 per cent in the number of reported motor accidents.

As a result, the motor insurance sector incurred an underwriting loss of $12.6 million for the six months up to June 30, from a profit of $17.2 million in the same period last year.

The GIA noted that this was the third consecutive quarter in which the motor sector - which accounts for more than a quarter of the general insurance business - had been loss-making.

On the back of that, gross premiums for motor insurance shrank by 2.4 per cent to $600.9 million in the first half of this year.

There are no details on what contributed to the situation, but the GIA said an inference could be made about the figures.

It said escalating claims on the back of fewer accidents could mean only one thing: The accidents were on average more severe, possibly involving more serious injuries.

The Straits Times understands more claimants engaging lawyers could be a secondary contributing factor, as claims through legal means were usually bigger.

An increased number of inflated and fraudulent claims could be another contributing factor, sources said.

A bigger pool of private-hire cars - a fairly new phenomenon - had been cited as well.

Earlier this year, statistics from motor insurers showed that private-hire cars - which make up 4.9 per cent of the total vehicle population - accounted for 9.4 per cent of 82,800 accidents reported in the second half of last year.

Passenger cars, which make up 59 per cent of vehicles, accounted for 49.5 per cent of accidents. Taxis, which make up just 2.4 per cent of vehicles, accounted for 13 per cent of accidents.

INCREASE IN PREMIUMS

On the whole, the general insurance industry saw a marginal 1.1 per cent increase in total gross premiums to $2.07 billion in the first half of this year, GIA said.

Underwriting profit plunged by 94.5 per cent to $3.14 million "as claims costs increased significantly across key segments such as motor insurance and work injury compensation insurance", it said.

Work injury compensation posted an underwriting loss of $6 million - down from a profit of $1.4 million in the first half of last year.

GIA president Karl Hamann said: "Our top priorities include working with key stakeholders to reduce the severity and frequency of motor accidents, and leveraging digital technologies... to lower and mitigate claims-costs inflation."

Transport