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UPDATE 1-UK insurers say court decision saves $480 mln

* ABI sees 300 mln stg in savings

* Direct Line escapes potential 45 mln stg hit

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LONDON, Oct 10 (Reuters) - British insurers on Wednesday welcomed a court decision on the timing of a planned increase in personal injury awards, saying it would save them 300 million pounds ($480 million).

The Court of Appeal ruling means the increase in court awards for personal injury will apply only to new claims that are made after April 1 2013, and not to older claims that are settled beyond that date.

The increase in awards was recommended last year as part of an overhaul of Britain's personal injury compensation system which also banned "no win, no fee" lawyers from paying referral fees for accident victims' details.

The decision is a boost to Direct Line, as the Royal Bank of Scotland-owned insurer battles to attract buyers to its listing on the London stock market.

It had warned it could face a hit of up to 45 million pounds if the ruling had gone the other way.

"Today's decision by the Court of Appeal means that insurers will not be forced to pass on about 300 million pounds in increased costs to the premium paying public," said James Dalton, assistant director of motor and liability at the Association of British Insurers.

"We have won a battle against unnecessary costs, but not the war."

Direct Line, Britain's biggest motor insurer, on Tuesday narrowed the indicative price of its shares to between 170 pence and 177.5 pence, in the lower half its initial range.

The share offering looks set to be London's biggest in over a year, despite investor caution over stiff competition and increased regulatory scrutiny in the motor insurance industry.

($1=0.6251 British pounds)

(Reporting by Myles Neligan; Editing by Matt Scuffham and Mark Potter)

((myles.neligan@thomsonreuters.com)(+44 7971 818 280))

Keywords: COURT INSURERS/

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