Average Severity

What is 'Average Severity'

Average severity is the amount of loss associated with an average insurance claim. Average severity is calculated by dividing the total amount of losses that an insurance company experiences by the number of claims that were made against policies that it underwrites.

BREAKING DOWN 'Average Severity'

Average severity is used to show the observed amount of loss for the average claim, or it may be an estimate of the amount of loss an insurer should expect from the average claim in the future.

Insurance companies rely on actuaries and the models that actuaries create to predict future claims, as well as the losses that those claims may result in. These models are dependent on a number of factors, including the type of risk being insured against, the demographic and geographic information of the individual or business that bought a policy, and the number of claims that are made. Together, this information forms the past experience of the insurer. Actuaries look at past experience data to determine if any patterns exist, and then compare this data to the industry at large.

Actuaries look at external factors to determine whether these factors influence trends in data. External factors include the environment, government legislation, and the economy. This type of analysis requires the actuary to compare past data to external factors to see if there is any correlation, and then to determine whether these external factors influence the trends that the actuary sees.

Average severity is used by an insurance company to determine the premium that it must charge in order to break even. The insurer will then add a percentage to this premium to take into account any profit that it would like to make. The pure premium, calculated by multiplying frequency by severity, represents the amount of money that the insurer will need to pay in estimated losses over the life of the policy.

Average Severity and Auto Insurance Claims

During stronger economic times when more new cars are sold, average claim severity rises due to the high cost of repairing the most modern technology. Between 2007 and 2011, when fewer new vehicles were being sold due to recession, average annual severity for this coverage increased only 0.27 percent. As more new vehicles hit the roads between 2011 and 2015, average annual severity jumped to 3.10 percent.

On the bodily injury side of auto claims, the frequency of bodily injury claims has been relatively stable before and after the recession, but severity continues to rise, largely affecting losses for auto insurers. While bodily injury has had a significant impact on profitability for years, the rise in frequency and severity on the physical damage side is exacerbating the impact on margins across the insurance industry.