COMPO CULTURE IS BACK WITH A VENGENCE - OVER A THIRD OF CONVENIENCE RETAILERS HAVE FACED A PERSONAL INJURY CLAIM IN THE LAST 12 MONTHS
SHOPOWNERS REPORT SHARP RISE IN PERSONAL INJURY CLAIMS AND ROCKETING INSURANCE PREMIUMS.
GROCERS’ BODY CALLS FOR MAJOR LEGAL REFORMS TO STEM THE COMPO CULTURE
5 October 2016
Irish retail grocers are reporting an unprecedented level of personal injury claims over the last 12 months with over one third having faced at least one new claim in the last year. Insurance premiums have also rocketed as a consequence of excessive settlements which are being foisted on retailers by insurance companies.
In a nationwide survey of 500 RGDATA members;
- 85% of retailers have seen an increase in their insurance premiums over the last year,
- The average insurance premium increase is just over 30% on the previous year, but some have increased by as much as 150%.
- 44% of retailers surveyed said that they had insurance claims recently with the majority (77%) involving personal injury claims.
- 34% of retailers have faced at least one personal injury claim in the last 12 months
- Retailers are reporting a persistent increase in claims from serial claimants and claims that are spurious and grossly exaggerated.
- All retailers surveyed felt that insurance companies are over eager to settle claims prematurely rather than fighting cases
- In over 80% of cases the insurer never consulted the retailer before settling the case.
RGDATA Director General Tara Buckley said that the high level of personal injuries claims that shops are facing is presenting a major threat to the viability of retail operations throughout the State. One recent high profile closure of a shop in the Midwest was attributed to the increasing level of claims and insurance costs – in that instance 40 jobs were lost. In addition to facing excessively high insurance bills, retailers are typically carrying an excess for any claim which they must meet themselves – increasingly between €5,000 and €10,000 per claim.
Retailers are also spending an inordinate amount of time and resources dealing with these claims.
“Shop owners are facing a real crisis. They are operating in tough trading conditions, but also have to deal with ever increasing insurance costs and a deluge of personal injury claims which insurance companies are all too keen to settle. This is costing businesses huge sums of money each year and negatively impacting on the viability of these businesses and their potential to employ people.”
Not only are these cases imposing huge costs on shop owners but they are also making it impossible for retailers to operate stores within reasonable levels of safety standards. Shops are safe places but the standard of care now being demanded of retailers is akin to a strict liability for any incident happening in a store,” said Tara Buckley.
RGDATA has called on the Government and the main Opposition parties to recognise this as an issue that transcends political divides and to introduce new measures to radically transform the landscape for dealing with personal injuries cases.
“The advent of the Injuries Board some years ago was very welcome. However it now appears as if solicitors are counselling clients to ignore the Board’s recommendations and instead to take their chances before the Courts. This is adding hugely to the cost of insurance and the cost of claims. We need to look afresh at the Injuries Board to see if its role and function can be increased to dealing with issues of liability and award levels. The current system is badly broken and ordinary hardworking business people are carrying a dysfunctional legal system on their backs. This needs to stop now.”
An RGDATA delegation will brief TDs and Senators on this issue at a meeting in Leinster House today (Wednesday 5 October) at 11am. RGDATA has also written to Minister of State Eoghan Murphy TD who has been tasked by the Government to deal with escalating insurance costs. RGDATA has set out a series of radical measures and changes in legislation to address the issue.
“Tinkering about with the current situation will not addreee this issue. We need a radical overhaul of the way we deal with these claims. These insurance cost increases are unsustainable and are threatening the viability of award winning local family owned food stores and supermarkets,” Buckley added.
The results of the survey of RGDATA members revealed;
- The average insurance premium paid by RGDATA members is €11,000, with some paying way in excess of this amount depending on the store size and level of claims – one supermarket owner is paying a premium of €160,000 per year or €3,000 per week to keep the shop insured.
- 85% of retailers have seen an increase in their insurance premium over the last year – with the average increase at 31.2%.
- The highest increase in an insurance premium year on year was 150%.
- 30% of retailers who saw an increase in their insurance premium had no claims.
- 44% of retailers said that they had recent insurance claims, with personal injury claims accounting for 77% of total claims.
- 34% of all retailers surveyed have been notified of at least one new personal injury claim in the last 12 months
- Unrealistic reserves are being set by insurers for outstanding claims, which are driving up premiums.
- Retailers are facing a persistent problem with both serial claimants and spurious claims.
- Retailers feel that insurance companies settle claims prematurely.
Retailer A – Leinster
Lady who was wearing inappropriate footwear slipped in the shop - claims the floor was wet, but there was no evidence to support this – the insurance company settled the case for €35k.
Staff member fell in the yard of the shop – no witnesses to the incident – insurance company settled the case for in excess of €135k.
A person fell in the car park of the shop at night time when the shop was closed over the Christmas period and claimed to have hurt her hand – the insurance company settled the case for €85k.
Retailer B - Munster
Woman wearing flip flops stubbed her toe on a mat on the way into the shop - the insurance company settled the case without contesting liability and the woman involved received €32k Customer slipped in car park and awarded €80k
Customer slipped on ice-cream in a car park and secured over €70k
Customer slipped on ketchup in store – awarded over €30k
Employee hurt arm when she tripped over shoes on a floor and was awarded over €40k
Employee fell off a ladder and secured €36k in award and costs.
Retailer C – Connacht
Three claims – one involving a customer who spilt some tea that she bought in the shop on her arm – the customer has rejected an offer of close to €15K made by the Injuries Board and is now off to Court. A second claim relates to a customer who allegedly slipped on a wet floor and who was awarded €16k from the Injuries Board which she has rejected. Finally a claim involving a staff member who injured his elbow at work and it seems likely that the case will result in an award in excess of €100k
Retailer D – Midlands
Two claims - Customer slipped on diesel spilt on the forecourt by another customer – secured €15k from the insurance company. Second claim involved a customer who entered the shop with snow on his shoes and slipped – now looking for €30k+
Retailer E – Ulster
Multiple claims – first involves a customer who alleges the floor was wet and slipped – no evidence to support the claim. Second involving a customer who alleges that they tripped on a pallet – which the store does not use. Third involves an employee who alleges she slipped in the shop, but on a date when she was not even rostered. The retailer has also been subject to multiple bogus claims from a single family.
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