MALVERN, Pa. -- A new study by the Insurance Research Council (IRC) finds that reported losses in auto injury claims are escalating in spite of the fact that the rate of serious auto injuries has decreased. In the past five years, increases in the average amounts that auto injury claimants report for expenses stemming from their injuries, particularly among personal injury protection and medical payments first-party claimants, are nearly double the annualized growth in medical inflation. Additionally, they are three times higher than increases in general inflation.

The IRC study, which is based on more than 70,000 auto injury claims collected from insurers countrywide, reveals that escalating medical costs are the key factor behind this growth in losses. Only modest increases have occurred in lost wages and other out-of-pocket expenses associated with injuries. The study points to sharp increases in charges for the treatment of auto injuries and increased use of certain medical professionals and diagnostic procedures as the basis for the rising medical costs.

The IRC report reflects 25 years of gathering information on auto injury claiming behavior. It explores countrywide auto injury claim patterns under each of the five principal private passenger auto insurance coverages: bodily injury liability (BI), which pays for an insured driver's legal liability for injury caused to someone else; medical payments (MP), which pays the medical and funeral expenses of insured drivers and their passengers; personal injury protection (PIP), which pays benefits to persons injured in auto accidents without regard to fault; uninsured motorist (UM), which pays when an insured driver is injured by an uninsured motorist; and underinsured motorist (UIM), which pays when an insured driver is injured by an underinsured motorist.

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