Rise In Claims Severity Puts A Heavy Burden On The Insurance Industry

 Friday, June 28, 2019

 Insurance Business America

Major corporations and their insurers should be shaking in their boots when it comes to their casualty insurance. The severity of claims related to large corporate risks (LCR) has increased in the past decade, and not by an insignificant degree.

“Over a four-year period (from 2014 to 2018), if you take just a swathe of the largest 200 claims that usually fall in that line of business, we saw it doubling in the average severity,” said Mike Hudzik (pictured), managing director and head of casualty underwriting in the US and Canada for Swiss Re. “That’s an unprecedented change.”

The key driver of severity in excess liability claims is the courtroom, where large corporations are often the targets of higher-than-normal awards, in part due to the influence of younger generations on juries who tend to support bigger judgments.

“We see the same thing with the impact of juries on general liability and product liability. If somebody gets injured in an automobile accident, there is this risk for greater severity because of what’s happening in juries, but it’s the same thing if somebody is injured by a product,” explained Hudzik. “Anyone with the label of a Fortune 1000 company is immediately in the crosshairs of people who want to go after deep pockets to make somebody whole.”

The rise in anti-corporate sentiment dates back to the financial crisis, when many people were angry with larger organizations.

“We saw all kinds of movements – [such as] Occupy Wall Street – and that had an impact in the courtroom on jurors,” explained Hudzik. “All of these factors together are causing lawsuit verdicts to be much higher than they had been before.”

While there’s no doubt that there’s a propensity for large corporate risks to pay more than other risks, there is something that insurance companies can do to manage their exposure.

“Because those large corporate risks tend to buy very large sums of liability insurance that could be up to a billion or over a billion dollars, the first thing that happens in courtrooms is the plaintiff’s attorneys ask how much insurance does this entity have, and that immediately becomes a target for the aspiration of what the award target is,” said Hudzik.

“In order for us to better underwrite and understand how much of that exposure we have, we need quite granular information from clients so that we can first of all, match their portfolio up with other portfolios that we have and determine where the most exposure is, and [then determine] what underwriting steps we need to take to minimize or mitigate our exposure to the best of our ability.”