Why Insurance Rates Are Increasing and What To Do About It

Pierre Morrisseau

Please excuse the pun, but the insurance industry is in the midst of a “perfect storm.”

After rates across all classes have been relatively flat for a number of years, insurance carriers are facing dramatic increases in both risk and cost of claims forcing them to dramatically increase premiums to meet state and federal reserve requirements, and in some cases, to even remain solvent.

Let’s take a closer look at what is driving costs to insurance premium increases.

Weather: Climate change and major losses around the globe from severe winter storms, severe summer storms and flooding, vast wildfires, hail, tornadoes and of course, hurricanes impacting ever-larger coastal and city populations. According to the National Centers for Environmental Information, the U.S. sustained 377 climate disasters since 1980 where damages exceeded $1 billion. The total cost of these 377 events exceeded $2.6 trillion. As populations swell in severe weather zones, so, too, has the cost of insurance soared. By comparison, all of the 1990s (1990-1999) saw 57 weather disasters costing over $327 billion, or about $32 billion per year. Last year alone, there were 28 ranked storm disasters costing $93 billion.

Severity and Cost of Auto Accidents: According to Kelly Blue Book, the average price of a new car in 2023 was $48,008. The severity rate for auto accidents has increased for the first time in decades as the cost and complexity of vehicles increases. Distracted drivers increase the frequency rate of accidents adding to the dramatic increase in vehicle insurance rates.

Inflation: Homes, autos, home contents, repair costs all have risen dramatically since the pandemic amidst supply chain disruptions, employment stresses, general inflation, all of which impact the cost of claims.

Social Inflation: Liability risk has soared due to a less well understood phenomenon defined as social inflation (the belief that someone must pay), resulting in massive liability settlements and dramatically increased legal activity.

Investment in Lawsuits: Driven by social inflation, lawsuits have increased. Organizations with deep pockets are the targets. Have you noticed the amount of advertising by Attorneys? This is often funded by outside investors who will provide capital in exchange for a stake in the settlement. The result is larger settlements but much of that may not be going to claimants.  This has quickly become big business. In Florida, one of the primary drivers of increased property insurance was a law that allowed homeowners to sign their rights to the claim to contractors who, working with attorneys, threatened suit against insurance companies if they failed to pony up.  Homeowners were actively solicited by contractors, driving up insurance costs of claims to twice as much or more of what they would have been. According to the Insurance Information Institute, 79% of all homeowner’s insurance lawsuits are in the state of Florida alone.  Consumers pay for these increases. 

Reinsurance Markets: Reinsurance is the insurance that insurance companies buy to spread their risk. Reinsurers, too, are under severe cost pressure, drastically increasing rates that must be added to the carriers’ own premiums. In addition, they have reduced the available limits, reduced coverage of specific triggers like wind and flood in high-risk areas, limited the types of buildings and locations that carriers can insure and limited the amount of reinsurance available. This has resulted in insurance companies changing their underwriting criteria and charging more or limiting the ability to provide coverage.

So, what should you do? First, know the basis of your risk. If it is your personal insurance – the age of your roof and your ability to prevent water damage claims is critical. Modern technology can detect any water flow and turn your system off before damage is incurred. Dash cams have become an important defense in proving your innocence in car accidents.  For businesses, it is important for underwriters to know how you are controlling risk as it can significantly affect the cost. Are you able to tell them your story? Will the insurance carrier and broker work with you to improve your risk management systems and support your business goals? There are other important steps that you should explore with your insurance broker that can help mitigate insurance costs increases.