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Every day, at least nine Americans die and hundreds are injured in distracted driving crashes. That’s why April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month, an effort to raise awareness about distracted driving risks and encourage individuals to adopt safer driving. #JustDrive

Auto accidents can be life-altering and there are situations where traumatic injuries warrant a large settlement. But multimillion-dollar demands have become routine even for auto claims that do not involve long-term injuries. Cases that previously settled for relatively small amounts are now in some instances resolving for two to three times those sums.

Further, outsized verdicts have become commonplace and have helped increase settlement values. The following are examples of some recent auto verdicts from around the nation:

  • A Harris County, Texas, jury earlier this year awarded nearly $90 million to plaintiffs who sued trucking company Werner Enterprises Inc. for a fatal 2014 crash, despite facts favorable to Werner.

     

  • In New York City, a jury awarded $71 million in 2017 to a woman who was seriously injured when the driver of her car fell asleep and struck another vehicle.

Our experts point to distracted driving as a growing cause for both increased frequency and severity of claims. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each day in the United States, approximately 9 people are killed and more than 1,000 injured in crashes that are reported to involve a distracted driver. The CDC describes distracted driving as driving while trying to do anything that takes your attention away from driving such as sending a text message, talking on a cell phone, using a navigation system, and eating. Any of these distractions can endanger the driver and others.

These claim trends are putting significant pressure on excess casualty underwriters. Current insurance rates for auto liability cannot be sustained if the increase in claim severity along with frequency continues. Claim cost inflation is important to monitor in all lines of business so that insurers can properly price the risks.

 

Claim cost inflation is important to monitor in all lines of business so that insurers can properly price the risks.

Important to note is that auto claims have not discriminated based on the types of excess business an insurer writes.  Regardless of the sophistication of the insureds or the types of vehicles that are required for an insured’s business (PPVs, Large Fleets), auto is a concern for all.  In the past, double-digit million-dollar verdicts tended to involve heavy trucks. In fact, about a year and a half ago our AXA XL colleagues began noticing a sharp rise in severity amounts on claims involving private passenger vehicles (PPVs).  This development was concerning not only for our insureds but for our underwriters as well.

It is easy for businesses to focus more on employee injuries than third-party automobile liability when accidents occur. But the claim trends suggest that increase in frequency as well as severity for third-party auto liability is quickly becoming a problem that sooner or later will increase an insured’s cost of doing business.

At AXA XL, our claims group works with our underwriters, broker and insured partners, to help make better-informed decisions. Sustainability is an important part of our company’s commitment to our customers. By keeping our eye on what’s happening, we can ensure that rates and policy attachment points remain aligned with the conditions our policyholders are likely to experience. We think about what keeps us up at night, so that our customers can rest assured.

 

Angela Guitar is head of claims for AXA XL’s Global Excess Casualty insurance business. She can be reached at angela.guitar@axaxl.com.

  • About The Author
  • Head of Global Excess Casualty Claims
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Global Asset Protection Services, LLC, and its affiliates (“AXA XL Risk Consulting”) provides risk assessment reports and other loss prevention services, as requested. This document shall not be construed as indicating the existence or availability under any policy of coverage for any particular type of loss or damage. AXA XL Risk. We specifically disclaim any warranty or representation that compliance with any advice or recommendation in any publication will make a facility or operation safe or healthful, or put it in compliance with any standard, code, law, rule or regulation. Save where expressly agreed in writing, AXA XL Risk Consulting and its related and affiliated companies disclaim all liability for loss or damage suffered by any party arising out of or in connection with this publication, including indirect or consequential loss or damage, howsoever arising. Any party who chooses to rely in any way on the contents of this document does so at their own risk.

US- and Canada-Issued Insurance Policies

In the US, the AXA XL insurance companies are: AXA Insurance Company, Catlin Insurance Company, Inc., Greenwich Insurance Company, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, XL Insurance America, Inc., XL Specialty Insurance Company and T.H.E. Insurance Company. In Canada, coverages are underwritten by XL Specialty Insurance Company - Canadian Branch and AXA Insurance Company - Canadian branch. Coverages may also be underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003. Coverages underwritten by Lloyd’s Syndicate #2003 are placed on behalf of the member of Syndicate #2003 by Catlin Canada Inc. Lloyd’s ratings are independent of AXA XL.
US domiciled insurance policies can be written by the following AXA XL surplus lines insurers: XL Catlin Insurance Company UK Limited, Syndicates managed by Catlin Underwriting Agencies Limited and Indian Harbor Insurance Company. Enquires from US residents should be directed to a local insurance agent or broker permitted to write business in the relevant state.