A survey of the nation’s largest brokers finds the soft market is firmly entrenched, with most brokers saying rates are running downward between 1- and 20 percent across all size accounts.

The Washington, D.C.-based Council of Insurance Agents & Brokers released its quarterly survey of the nation’s brokers, asking them how premium pricing has changed over the past three months.

For the months covering July to September of this year, 103 brokers surveyed said the average price decline was 13.3 percent, with large accounts receiving the highest decline at 15.9 percent. Medium-size accounts (commission and fees between $25,000 and $100,000) was slightly less at 15 percent. Small accounts (less than $25,000) saw the smallest benefit of the soft market with average premium declines of 8.9 percent.

The average rate of decline is higher than the 11 percent recorded in the previous two quarters.

Seventy-four percent of brokers surveyed said premiums for their small accounts were down between 1- and 20 percent, while 75 percent of the brokers said premiums for their medium-size accounts were down in that range.

Sixty-three percent of brokers said their large accounts experienced premium drops in the 1-to-20 percent range, while 20 percent of the brokers said premiums for their large accounts dropped 20-to-30 percent.

None of the brokers surveyed reported premium increases during the period for the size of account.

According to the survey, rates have been on the decline since reaching their peak increase in the fourth quarter of 2001. Average premium rate changes first began going negative in the first quarter of 2004.

By line of business, highlighted in the report, commercial property premiums in the third quarter were down 15 percent; general liability was down 12.7 percent; and umbrella dropped 11.9 percent.

Other lines:

o Workers’ compensation down 11.2 percent.

o Commercial auto down 10.7 percent.

o Business interruption down 10.2 percent.

o Directors & officers liability down 8.7 percent.

o Employment practices down 7.8 percent.

o Medical malpractice down 3.8 percent.

o Surety bonds down 2.1 percent.

In anecdotal comments from brokers as part of the survey, respondents noted that coastal properties with wind exposures, primarily in the Southeast, were beginning to ease with some decreases in pricing. However, there was little change in deductibles, according to the comments, CIAB said.