Claims Trends

WC Frequency Poised to Continue Long-Term Decline

Following a 2010 uptick, claims frequency has declined for three straight years at an average rate of about 3 percent per year.
By: | August 18, 2014 • 3 min read
Topics: Claims | Workers' Comp

Injuries involving the arms and shoulders bucked the trend of declining frequencies of most other body parts over the past five years. That’s among the findings in a new report on claims frequency in the workers’ comp industry.

While the Great Recession was likely responsible for frequency changes in recent years, other factors are now apparent. NCCI has drilled down into the particulars driving recent rates of injuries.


“The 2010 increase in frequency, the first increase in 13 years, may have been the result of recession-related factors,” said the research brief. “Despite the 2010 uptick, claim frequency resumed its decline in Accident Years 2011, 2012, and 2013. These are very positive signs that suggest that frequency will continue its historical long-term rate of decline.”

The research brief, Workers Compensation Claim Frequency — 2014 Update, expounds on data presented at NCCI’s Annual Issues Symposium earlier this year. The report also includes detailed information on frequency changes by selected claim characteristics and for policies with versus without small deductibles.

Overall Trends

“Claim frequency increased 3.5 percent in Accident Year 2010, the first significant increase in frequency in 20 years,” the report states. “Following the 2010 uptick, claim frequency has declined for three straight years at an average rate of about 3 percent per year.”

Evidence suggests an influx of small lost-time claims contributed to the increase in claims frequency for AY 2010. Workers fearful of losing their jobs may have delayed filing claims in 2009, but then filed them when the economy began to rebound, the authors suggest.

“Despite the 2010 uptick, claim frequency resumed its decline in Accident Years 2011, 2012, and 2013. These are very positive signs that suggest that frequency will continue its historical long-term rate of decline.” — NCCI

One of the changes seen in the most recent figures is the significant decline in frequency of claims above $50,000 in accident year 2012. These claims declined by more than 7 percent, whereas claims between $10,000 and $50,000 declined by 3.1 percent and small claims declined by just 1.4 percent. A closer look reveals two major drivers in the larger claims category.

“Within the Part of Body group, we found that the frequency of lower back claims declined by 11 percent versus 6 percent for all other claims in the category,” the report says. “Similarly, within the Cause of Injury group, we found that the frequency of slip and fall injuries declined by 12 percent versus 4 percent for all other claims in the category.”

Additional Breakdowns

Over the last five years, the frequency of injuries for most body parts declined by 13.9 percent while the frequency of injuries involving multiple body parts declined by 22 percent.

The frequency rate for arm and shoulder injuries, which represent 15 percent of injuries, remained flat. “This may be influenced by an older workforce,” the report suggests, “where rotator cuff injuries are not uncommon.”

In terms of the injury type, frequency for permanent partial and temporary total claims were consistent with the overall decline of 13.9 percent for all injury types while fatal and permanent total claims showed more volatility each year, due to the smaller volume of these claims. The authors note that the figures are based on injury type reported as of first report and that the development of claim counts can differ considerably as they reach ultimate level.

“For example, subsequent to first report, some claims will become fatal claims and others will become PTD claims,” the report explains. “Fatal claim frequency at first report is more than three times higher than permanent total disability claim frequency. However, this difference will decline as claims age since more PTD claims than fatal claims will emerge beyond first report.”


Sprain/strain, comprising the majority share of claims by nature of injury, declined by 10 percent. That compares to a decline of 17 percent for all other categories combined. The frequency of carpal tunnel syndrome claims dropped by 25 percent, although the rate of decline has slowed in the most recent years.

In terms of the cause of injury, there was a steep drop in the frequency of cumulative injury claims — more than 18 percent. Injuries in the category of cut/puncture/scrape dropped by 23 percent. “A possible explanation is that the types of injuries in both of these categories may be relatively more preventable through loss control and safety measures.”

Nancy Grover is the president of NMG Consulting and the Editor of Workers' Compensation Report, a publication of our parent company, LRP Publications. She can be reached at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

More from Risk & Insurance

Risk Focus: Cyber

Expanding Cyber BI

Cyber business interruption insurance is a thriving market, but growth carries the threat of a mega-loss. 
By: | March 5, 2018 • 7 min read

Lingering hopes that large-scale cyber attack might be a once-in-a-lifetime event were dashed last year. The four-day WannaCry ransomware strike in May across 150 countries targeted more than 300,000 computers running Microsoft Windows. A month later, NotPetya hit multinationals ranging from Danish shipping firm Maersk to pharmaceutical giant Merck.


Maersk’s chairman, Jim Hagemann Snabe, revealed at this year’s Davos summit that NotPetya shut down most of the group’s network. While it was replacing 45,000 PCs and 4,000 servers, freight transactions had to be completed manually. The combined cost of business interruption and rebuilding the system was up to $300 million.

Merck’s CFO Robert Davis told investors that its NotPetya bill included $135 million in lost sales plus $175 million in additional costs. Fellow victims FedEx and French construction group Saint Gobain reported similar financial hits from lost business and clean-up costs.

The fast-expanding world of cryptocurrencies is also increasingly targeted. Echoes of the 2014 hack that triggered the collapse of Bitcoin exchange Mt. Gox emerged this January when Japanese cryptocurrency exchange Coincheck pledged to repay customers $500 million stolen by hackers in a cyber heist.

The size and scope of last summer’s attacks accelerated discussions on both sides of the Atlantic, between risk managers and brokers seeking more comprehensive cyber business interruption insurance products.

It also recently persuaded Pool Re, the UK’s terrorism reinsurance pool set up 25 years ago after bomb attacks in London’s financial quarter, to announce that from April its cover will extend to include material damage and direct BI resulting from acts of terrorism using a cyber trigger.

“The threat from a cyber attack is evident, and businesses have become increasingly concerned about the extensive repercussions these types of attacks could have on them,” said Pool Re’s chief, Julian Enoizi. “This was a clear gap in our coverage which left businesses potentially exposed.”

Shifting Focus

Development of cyber BI insurance to date reveals something of a transatlantic divide, said Hans Allnutt, head of cyber and data risk at international law firm DAC Beachcroft. The first U.S. mainstream cyber insurance products were a response to California’s data security and breach notification legislation in 2003.

Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter, Beazley

Of more recent vintage, Europe’s first cyber policies’ wordings initially reflected U.S. wordings, with the focus on data breaches. “So underwriters had to innovate and push hard on other areas of cyber cover, particularly BI and cyber crimes such as ransomware demands and distributed denial of service attacks,” said Allnut.

“Europe now has regulation coming up this May in the form of the General Data Protection Regulation across the EU, so the focus has essentially come full circle.”

Cyber insurance policies also provide a degree of cover for BI resulting from one of three main triggers, said Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter for specialist insurer Beazley. “First is the malicious-type trigger, where the system goes down or an outage results directly from a hack.

“Second is any incident involving negligence — the so-called ‘fat finger’ — where human or operational error causes a loss or there has been failure to upgrade or maintain the system. Third is any broader unplanned outage that hits either the company or anyone on which it relies, such as a service provider.”

The importance of cyber BI covering negligent acts in addition to phishing and social engineering attacks was underlined by last May’s IT meltdown suffered by airline BA.

This was triggered by a technician who switched off and then reconnected the power supply to BA’s data center, physically damaging servers and distribution panels.

Compensating delayed passengers cost the company around $80 million, although the bill fell short of the $461 million operational error loss suffered by Knight Capital in 2012, which pushed it close to bankruptcy and decimated its share price.

Mistaken Assumption

Awareness of potentially huge BI losses resulting from cyber attack was heightened by well-publicized hacks suffered by retailers such as Target and Home Depot in late 2013 and 2014, said Matt Kletzli, SVP and head of management liability at Victor O. Schinnerer & Company.


However, the incidents didn’t initially alarm smaller, less high-profile businesses, which assumed they wouldn’t be similarly targeted.

“But perpetrators employing bots and ransomware set out to expose any firms with weaknesses in their system,” he added.

“Suddenly, smaller firms found that even when they weren’t themselves targeted, many of those around them had fallen victim to attacks. Awareness started to lift, as the focus moved from large, headline-grabbing attacks to more everyday incidents.”

Publications such as the Director’s Handbook of Cyber-Risk Oversight, issued by the National Association of Corporate Directors and the Internet Security Alliance fixed the issue firmly on boardroom agendas.

“What’s possibly of greater concern is the sheer number of different businesses that can be affected by a single cyber attack and the cost of getting them up and running again quickly.” — Jimaan Sané, technology underwriter, Beazley

Reformed ex-hackers were recruited to offer board members their insights into the most vulnerable points across the company’s systems — in much the same way as forger-turned-security-expert Frank Abagnale Jr., subject of the Spielberg biopic “Catch Me If You Can.”

There also has been an increasing focus on systemic risk related to cyber attacks. Allnutt cites “Business Blackout,” a July 2015 study by Lloyd’s of London and the Cambridge University’s Centre for Risk Studies.

This detailed analysis of what could result from a major cyber attack on America’s power grid predicted a cost to the U.S. economy of hundreds of billions and claims to the insurance industry totalling upwards of $21.4 billion.

Lloyd’s described the scenario as both “technologically possible” and “improbable.” Three years on, however, it appears less fanciful.

In January, the head of the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre, Ciaran Martin, said the UK had been fortunate in so far averting a ‘category one’ attack. A C1 would shut down the financial services sector on which the country relies heavily and other vital infrastructure. It was a case of “when, not if” such an assault would be launched, he warned.

AI: Friend or Foe?

Despite daunting potential financial losses, pioneers of cyber BI insurance such as Beazley, Zurich, AIG and Chubb now see new competitors in the market. Capacity is growing steadily, said Allnutt.

“Not only is cyber insurance a new product, it also offers a new source of premium revenue so there is considerable appetite for taking it on,” he added. “However, whilst most insurers are comfortable with the liability aspects of cyber risk; not all insurers are covering loss of income.”

Matt Kletzli, SVP and head of management liability, Victor O. Schinnerer & Company

Kletzli added that available products include several well-written, broad cyber coverages that take into account all types of potential cyber attack and don’t attempt to limit cover by applying a narrow definition of BI loss.

“It’s a rapidly-evolving coverage — and needs to be — in order to keep up with changing circumstances,” he said.

The good news, according to a Fitch report, is that the cyber loss ratio has been reduced to 45 percent as more companies buy cover and the market continues to expand, bringing down the size of the average loss.

“The bad news is that at cyber events, talk is regularly turning to ‘what will be the Hurricane Katrina-type event’ for the cyber market?” said Kletzli.

“What’s worse is that with hurricane losses, underwriters know which regions are most at risk, whereas cyber is a global risk and insurers potentially face huge aggregation.”


Nor is the advent of robotics and artificial intelligence (AI) necessarily cause for optimism. As Allnutt noted, while AI can potentially be used to decode malware, by the same token sophisticated criminals can employ it to develop new malware and escalate the ‘computer versus computer’ battle.

“The trend towards greater automation of business means that we can expect more incidents involving loss of income,” said Sané. “What’s possibly of greater concern is the sheer number of different businesses that can be affected by a single cyber attack and the cost of getting them up and running again quickly.

“We’re likely to see a growing number of attacks where the aim is to cause disruption, rather than demand a ransom.

“The paradox of cyber BI is that the more sophisticated your organization and the more it embraces automation, the bigger the potential impact when an outage does occur. Those old-fashioned businesses still reliant on traditional processes generally aren’t affected as much and incur smaller losses.” &

Graham Buck is editor of He can be reached at