Product liability insurance protects the manufacturer, distributor or seller of a product from legal liability resulting from a defective condition that caused personal injury or damage associated with the use of the product. Product recall insurance, a specialty product designed to cover the costs associated with recalls, is also available from some insurers.
According to a February 2015 report from the advocacy group Kids in Danger, recalls of children’s products declined 34 percent in 2014 to 75, the lowest number in the 14 years of data collected by the organization. In 2014 there were 338 incidents reported prior to recall of the 75 children’s products, for an average of 5 incidents per recalled product. The 2014 average represents an improvement from 2013, when the average was 14 incidents per recalled product. Injuries related to the recalls were down 85 percent, and deaths fell from 11 in 2013 to three in 2014. Children’s product recalls in 2014 totaled almost 17 million units.
PRODUCT LIABILITY INSURANCE, 2005-2014
MEDIAN AND AVERAGE PERSONAL INJURY JURY AWARDS BY TYPE OF LIABILITY, 2013
INSURERS’ LEGAL DEFENSE COSTS
Most lawsuits are settled out of court. Of those that are tried and proceed to verdict, Jury Verdict Research data show that in 2013 the median, or midpoint, plaintiff award in personal injury cases was $68,218, down 9 percent from $75,000 in 2012.
Travelers Insurance 2015 Business Risk Index showed that legal liability was the fourth-highest rated worry for business leaders in the United States, down from No. 3 a year earlier. Of 1,210 business leaders surveyed, 56 percent indicated they worry about it somewhat or a great deal.
Businesses address their liability concerns through many types of risk management, of which insurance is an important component. A Swiss Re study indicated that in 2013 the United States had the largest commercial liability insurance market in the world both in premium volume ($84 billion) and as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product (0.50 percent). More than half of all global liability premiums were written in the United States.
TOP 10 LARGEST COMMERCIAL LIABILITY MARKETS, 2013
Insurers are required to defend their policyholders against lawsuits. The costs of settling a claim are reported on insurers’ financial statements as defense and cost containment expenses incurred. These expenses include defense, litigation and medical cost containment. Expenditures for surveillance, litigation management and fees for appraisers, private investigators, hearing representatives and fraud investigators are included. In addition, attorney legal fees may be incurred owing to a duty to defend, even when coverage does not exist, because attorneys must be hired to issue opinions about coverage. Insurers’ defense costs as a percentage of incurred losses are relatively high in some lines such as product liability and medical malpractice, reflecting the high cost of defending certain types of lawsuits, such as medical injury cases and class actions against pharmaceutical companies. For example, in addition to $1.2 billion in product liability incurred losses in 2014, insurers spent $953 million on settlement expenses, equivalent to 77.4 percent of the losses.
DEFENSE COSTS AND COST CONTAINMENT EXPENSES AS A PERCENT OF INCURRED LOSSES, 2012-2014 (1)
Source: U.S. Department of Transportation, “Product Liability” http://www.iii.org/ website. Accessed March 1, 2016. http://www.iii.org/fact-statistic/product-liability
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