THE PEAK BODY representing lawyers across Australia this week continued its criticism of the insurance industry, which it said is making record profits out of injured Australians.
Recently released data support the Law Council of Australia’s (LCA’s) long held argument that there is a “scandal” underlying the tort law changes in Australia, it said.
KPMG’s ‘General Insurance Industry Sydney 2005’ revealed that “injured Australians are finding it increasingly difficult to obtain adequate compensation, while insurance companies continue to make enormous profits”, said LCA president-elect Tim Bugg.
The KPMG report showed that insurers made a record after-tax profit of $3.252 billion during the past 12 months, the LCA said, which was a 27 per cent increase on last year’s profit. The study showed that in the years since changes to tort law were introduced nationally, the share price of the insurance industry has grown by over 70 per cent. This, the LCA claimed, was one of the world’s largest financial sector increases.
“The KPMG survey reveals the scandal underlying the tort law changes in Australia. Tort ‘reforms’ have simply shifted the burden of supporting people who have been injured, through no fault of their own, from the insurance industry to Medicare and the Australian taxpayer,” said Bugg.
“What we are seeing now demonstrates that the tort law changes have gone too far. It is time to start revising the changes in tort law, which are continuing to hurt injured Australians and costing the Australian taxpayer millions of dollars,” he said.
The LCA has previously claimed that Chief Justice of New South Wales, James Spigelman, is on the right track in his comments that the tide of tort reform changes must be turned back for the benefit of injured Australians.
In an address to the 14th Commonwealth Law Conference in London entitled ‘Negligence: Is recovery for personal injury too generous?’, Chief Justice Spigelman said “the changes in NSW go well beyond anything that was ever recommended”.
“Those changes occurred without a full appreciation of the extent to which judicial attitudes had already changed and were changing. A number of persons, including myself, have indicated that in various respects the statutory changes have gone too far,” he said.
LCA president John North said the Chief Justice’s comments refute claims made by Andrew Robb MP about compliant courts awarding unjustified levels of damages. “Changes in NSW and other jurisdictions have done nothing more than shift the burden of treating the injured from insurance companies to the taxpayer,” North said.