Medical expenses reported by people who file auto insurance injury claims have risen faster than the rate of inflation, even as the severity of the injuries lessened, according to a new study by the Insurance Research Council.
Analysts found that from 2007 to 2012, the average losses reported by personal injury protection claimants rose an average of 8 percent a year. The average amount claimed per person in 2012, including expenses for medical care, lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses, reached $14,207.
Among people who filed bodily injury liability claims, the average claimed losses grew 4 percent a year, reaching $10,541 in 2012.
Researchers, meanwhile, found evidence of a decline in the severity of injuries over the same period, including the percentage of claimants who had no visible injuries at the accident scene or who had fewer than 10 days in which they were unable to perform their usual daily activities.
A variety of factors boosted medical care costs, including a shift toward more-expensive treatment and diagnostic alternatives and increases in billed charges for visits to medical doctors and clinics. The study said the involvement of attorneys, use of pain clinics and fraud contributed to the growth in costs.
"Looking forward, the industry will need to continue its vigilance in contending with these expanding costs, particularly as it monitors the possible spillover effects from general health care reform," Elizabeth Sprinkel, Insurance Research Council senior vice president, said in a press statement.
The study, the seventh of its kind conducted by the council, examined data on more than 35,000 private passenger auto injury claims closed with payment. Twelve insurers representing 52 percent of the U.S. private passenger auto insurance market participated in the study.