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Long delays in settlements hurting insurers

by Emmanuel Joseph

Anton Lovell

Anton Lovell

Barbados’ general insurance industry is hurting.

“Pain” caused by long delays in settling accident and personal injury claims is now so “severe” that insurers are intensifying their lobby for a Small Claims Court.

The problem has become so burdensome that at least one company has been approaching the court to have cases dismissed for lack of prosecution, while arbitration is being increasingly pursued.

Chairman of the General Insurance Association of Barbados’ Public Relations Committee, Anton Lovell, today called for the introduction of alternative dispute resolution and said he would support any suggestion for a Small Claims Court which would help settle the quantum of claims without resorting to the regular court.

Lovell told Barbados TODAY the industry continued to be burdened with the long court delays.

“Once a case is filed in court, that is where the delays start. We (insurance companies) can’t close our files, we have to keep our high reserves in place as well, and these cases could go on for years,” he added.

The GIBA representative, who is also Cooperators General Insurance General Manager, said as far as his own company was concerned they “are now approaching the court to have cases dismissed for lack of prosecution”.

“The lawyers not pushing it and our reserves are high and this is impacting our business. We have had a couple of successful cases where the court upheld our submissions for dismissal. These cases were between 10 to 15 years old,” Lovell said.

Part of the problem was that the medical and legal fraternities were blaming each for delays in expediting the settlements.

The insurance executive recalled a case in which an attorney did not turn up to court on four different occasions, and the tribunal threw out the matter.

He felt a Small Claims Court which could take on the many minor “rear-enders” from clogging up the mainstream court system, should reduce the potential of lawyers having excuses to speedily agree on the amount of claims to be paid out.

In an earlier interview, Head of the General Division and Deputy Chief Executive Officer of the Insurance Corporation of Barbados Limited, Goulbourne Alleyne, told Barbados TODAY the industry was pursuing a proposal to establish a Small Claims Court as part of a solution to achieving faster settlements.

“A suggestion was already made sometime back.. to have a Small Claims Court system, which actually deals with those small matters, so that the main stream court system can deal with the different types of criminal offences. So we can have a situation where we can have an infrastructure within the legal system which deals strictly with traffic cases or small claims associated with those cases; that may expedite the process,” Alleyne said at ICBL’s Roebuck Street, St. Michael headquarters this morning minutes after an official rebranding ceremony.

He argued that some of those cases dragged on longer because of the constraints within the judicial system and the number of cases the courts had to hear.

ICBL’s policy was to use the court as a last resort to resolve claims cases.

“We try as much as possible to use our in-house legal team to negotiate with the external legal representative of the claimant to come to a conclusion as best as possible; and the other thing companies have been doing lately, is to actually, look at arbitration … as far as the quantum of damage is concerned that should be paid,” Alleyne noted.

He said too, that the GIAB was working closely with the Royal Barbados Police Force to reduce the time it took for accident reports to be completed.

“Sometimes what happens is the necessary documentation to support the claimants’ quantum for damages takes a little longer to come to us,” the official explained.

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