February 10, 2021
Auto Damage Claims Growing Twice as Fast as Inflation
The average payment for auto physical damage insurance claims increased at more than double the rate of inflation from 2010 through 2018, according to a new study from the Insurance Research Council (IRC).
The study, Patterns in Auto Physical Damage Insurance Claims, found that average payments increased 3.7 percent annualized during the study period, while the overall Consumer Price Index (CPI), as well as the CPI for motor vehicle maintenance and repair, grew 1.8 percent annualized.
“Damage to vehicles accounts for a growing share of the costs of paying auto insurance claims,” said David Corum, CPCU, vice president of the IRC. “As vehicle technology continues to evolve, an understanding of the cost drivers behind auto physical damage claims will be important in addressing issues in auto insurance availability and affordability.”
Other findings from the study:
- Total losses have become more common and more expensive.
- Catastrophe claims accounted for about one in five dollars paid for comprehensive claims.
- Deductibles and policy limits have not kept pace with the growth in payments.
- Physical damage claims have become less likely to have associated injury claims.
- The rate of attorney involvement is lower in physical damage claims than in auto injury claims.
- For most aspects of physical damage claims, there are significant differences among states.
According to National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) data, vehicle damage claims accounted for 60 percent of incurred personal auto losses in 2016, even as the injury cost index – a measure of injury costs relative to physical damage liability claims – declined. Enhanced passenger protections have contributed to a drop in the frequency of injury claims relative to the number of accidents, underscoring an important reality: auto safety improvements are effective but add to the cost of claims, as they lead to more expensive repairs when accidents happen.
With auto claims costs greatly outpacing inflation, it’s worth noting that auto insurance premium growth has trailed CPI growth, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic and its subsequent economic downturn has led to insurers giving back $14 billion to policyholders in the form of refunds, premium reductions, and dividends.
The study presents findings from a collection of more than 220,000 claims closed with payment under the three principal private passenger auto physical damage coverages in claim years 2010, 2014, and 2018.