Category Archives: Catastrophes

Swiss Re’s preliminary insured catastrophe loss estimates for 2017 – $136 billion, third highest on record

Swiss Re sigma has released its preliminary 2017 catastrophe loss estimates today. Here are some of the findings:

  • Total global economic losses from natural disasters in 2017 came to $306 billion, up from $188 billion in 2016, according to Swiss Re sigma estimates.
  • Insured losses from catastrophes are estimated to be $136 billion, the third highest recorded by sigma.
  • Losses were heaviest in U.S. which was pummeled by hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria making 2017 the second costliest hurricane season after 2005.
  • Over 11,000 people died because of disaster events in 2017.

In addition to the intense hurricane season other major disasters of 2017 include:

  • Major wildfires in October through December in California, which led to significant losses which are still being tallied. Property Claims Services estimates combined insured property losses from the fires to be $7.3 billion.
  • In mid-September, two powerful earthquakes in Tehuantepec and Puebla, Mexico, which led to numerous building collapses, claiming many victims and resulting in insured losses of over $2 billion.
  • In late March, tropical Cyclone Debbie, which hit the northeastern coast of Australia as a category 4 storm. Wind gusts and widespread flooding in central and southeast Queensland and northeast New South Wales led to insured losses of $1.3 billion.
  • Europe suffered a cold snap at the end of April, followed by a summer of record temperatures.
  • Severe floods in Southeast Asia claimed many victims and caused large devastation.

Martin Bertogg, Head of Catastrophe Perils at Swiss Re:

“In recent years, annual insurance losses from disaster events have exceeded USD 100 billion a few times. The insurance industry has demonstrated that it can cope very well with such high losses. However, significant protection gaps remain and if the industry is able to extend its reach, many more people and businesses can become better equipped to withstand the fallout from disaster events.”

Determining the relative impact of winter snowstorms

It’s mid-December and some areas of the country have already had heavy snowfalls.  Winter storms can have a serious economic impact with disruption of business and travel, collapsed roofs and stresses on municipal governments. It’s useful to know the relative impact of winter storms, and in a recent blog post,  AIR Worldwide spotlights a rating scale called Northeast Snowfall Impact Scale (NESIS), developed by the  Weather Channel and the National Weather Service.

NESIS provides a relative measure of Northeast winter storm impact based on total snowfall amount, geographic distribution, and population density. The scale does not consider the replacement value of property, however.

NESIS has five categories: Extreme, Crippling, Major, Significant, and Notable. The Great Blizzard of 1993 holds the record for maximum NESIS value for a single storm at 13.20

The I.I.I. has a Facts & Stats about Winter Storms here.

The Week in a Minute, 12/15/17

The III’s Michael Barry briefs our membership every week on key insurance related stories. Here are some highlights. 

More than 90,000 people have been evacuated in recent weeks as California’s Thomas Fire—the fourth largest in the state’s history in terms of acreage burned—migrated last weekend (December 9-10) into Santa Barbara County from Ventura County.

The total insured damage caused by 2017’s hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, coupled with two Mexican earthquakes, could rival 2011’s record catastrophe-related payouts from that year’s major earthquakes in Japan and New Zealand, according an analysis published in The Wall Street Journal’s Wednesday, December 13, print edition.

The I.I.I.’s Market Report webinar, “Protecting Small Business Against #cyberfail,’ was held on Monday, December 11.  It is archived online.

 

The Week in a Minute, 12/8/17

The I.I.I.’s Michael Barry has been attending the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ meeting. This week, I.I.I. Daily editor Jennifer Ha picks the week’s most important insurance stories.

  • Record winds are fanning the flames of three major wildfires in Southern California. Already 200 homes and buildings have been destroyed, and tens of thousands of persons face evacuation.
  • Damage claims related to the October wildfires that hit the state’s Wine Country have risen to $9 billion. The state tracks the losses reported to major insurance companies, and the recent losses are far greater than any other wildfire outbreak in state history.
  • The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has filed claims with private reinsurers for the full $1.042 billion the agency has in coverage. The claims are being sought to help FEMA recover the losses of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) from Hurricane Harvey. Meanwhile, Congress approved a short-term (December 22) extention for the NFIP.

I.I.I. members receive the I.I.I. Daily for the latest insurance-related news for free. Nonmembers can purchase a subscription. Contact daily@iii.org.

More Wildfires, This Time in Southern California

The worst wildfire season in the history of modern California is taking another bad turn, as three major fires have destroyed more than 200 homes and buildings.

Strong winds will be fanning the flames. The state’s foresters have issued a purple wind alert for Southern California, something they have never done before.

This follows a Department of Insurance report that insurers have incurred more than $9 billion in claims so far from the October fires, being $8.4 billion in residential claims, $790 million in commercial property, $96 million in personal and commercial auto, and $110 million from other commercial lines. County-level details here.

The New York Times has a 2-minute video summarizing why this year’s wildfire season has been so bad.

Their take:

  • Wet winter followed by hot summer. The moisture encouraged plant growth. The heat turned those plants to tinder.
  • Longer fire season, perhaps linked to climate change.
  • Growing residential areas. Development is encroaching on forests.
  • Santa Ana winds. As noted above, the winds are blowing harder this year.

I.I.I. Facts + Statistics on wildfire can be found here. Here’s a prior Terms + Conditions post on filing claims. (It was written for the October fires, but the message will not have changed much.)

When a fire becomes a liability accumulation event

Accumulation risk, where a single event triggers losses under multiple policies in one or more lines of insurance, is emerging in new and unforeseen ways in today’s interconnected world, says a post at Swiss Re Open Minds blog.

From Ruta Mikiskaite, casualty treaty underwriter, and Catriona Barker, claims expert UK&International Claims at Swiss Re:

“Accumulation scenarios have always been familiar in property insurance but for casualty lines of business, they have been perhaps less of an issue. However, large losses in recent years show how traditional physical perils should not be underestimated for their casualty clash potential.”

For example, Kilmore East-Kinglake bushfire, the most severe of a series of deadly wildfires in the Australian state of Victoria on Black Saturday, 7 February 2009, led to a settlement of A$500 million—the biggest class action settlement in Australian legal history.

Per Swiss Re’s post, the Royal Commission found that the fire was caused by poorly maintained power lines owned by power company SP AusNet and maintained by asset manager Utility Services Group. The Victoria State government was also held liable for its failure to provide sufficient prevention measures and inadequate warnings during the fires.

“With improved technology and scientific tools available to analyze and simulate scenarios following storms, fires and floods to predict their likely or alternative courses, any action by an individual, corporate body or government now attracts far greater scrutiny. As a result, there can be a greater readiness to sue for alleged nuisance or negligence leading to more casualty claims out of natural perils.”

The upshot: insurers need to look at their reinsurance programs to see how they would respond to liability clash events.

 

Feeling Scammed Post-Disasters? Tips for Consumers

This post is was submitted by Lynne McChristian and Janet Ruiz, the I.I.I.’s Florida and California representatives.

Natural disasters (such as a flood, earthquake, hurricane or tornado) sometimes invite another type of disaster: “Storm Chasers” who try to profit from others’ unfortunate circumstances. These profiteers take many forms – from workers posing as qualified contractors to “volunteers” trying to help only themselves to lawyers and public adjusters offering to take over your claim. If you start having second thoughts about anyone who has offered assistance after disaster strikes, here are some tips to get you back on course:

  • Never feel pressured to make a decision.
    While the need to recover quickly is understandable, do not succumb to a high-pressure sales pitch. If you’ve signed an agreement or contract, remember the Federal Trade Commission has rules protecting consumers that allow you to cancel a contract up until midnight of the third business day after entering into it. This applies to door-to-door sales contracts for more than $25, as well as sale contracts for more than $25 made at any place other than a seller’s usual place of business. Additionally, states have similar rules to help consumers having second thoughts on the contracts they’ve signed.
  • Think carefully about signing over your claim to an outsider.
    This may sound like a good idea, since it appears to free you from handling the details of disaster recovery. However, what often happens when a third-party (which can be a contractor or public adjuster) takes over your claim is that you lose control of it and repair costs may be greatly inflated, delayed or not in compliance with building codes. The desire to get the job done right the first time makes a good case for the homeowner to stay involved in the process.
  • Always deal with a licensed, insured contractor for both temporary and permanent repairs.
    Be certain to have a pro handle your job. Unlicensed individuals may actually cause more damage to your property. And, if they are injured on your property, they may hold you liable if they do not have their own insurance. You can request to see their license and verify it with state or county officials. Unlicensed contractors can be reported to your state’s licensing board. Keep receipts for temporary repairs, as your insurer will reimburse you for these expenses.
  • Know that your insurer is an on-call advisor to help you through every step of the claims process.
    Home and business insurance policies comes with claims services, so consult your insurer as soon as possible after disaster strikes. Disaster claims are handled based on the severity of damage, so those most impacted get priority. That is why it is important to provide an accurate preliminary account of the damage when you make the initial call to your insurer. Also, be sure to mention any circumstances that may necessitate expedited claims handling, such as special needs situations. Contact the department of insurance in your state if you have complaints.
  • Report the scam to local police and your state insurance department.
    These scams can happen to anyone, so don’t hesitate to contact authorities. Many states also have consumer affairs departments to assist you in answering questions, protecting your interests and filing charges, if necessary.

 Additional Resources

RMS: CA wildfires cost $3B to $6B – so far

Though the wildfires in California continue, RMS has estimated economic and insured losses between $3 billion and $6 billion, making this collection of wildfires the most expensive ever.

According to data from Property Claim Services as reported on the I.I.I web site, the most expensive wildfire previously was the 1991 Oakland Hills fire, which incurred losses of about $2.75 billion, adjusted for inflation.

Because the penetration rate for insurance is so high in this region, RMS says its figure represents both economic and insured loss.
Further details:

The range includes loss due to property damage, contents and business interruption caused by the burn component of the fires to residential, commercial, and industrial lines of business.

It does not include automobile or agricultural crop losses, smoke damage, or any factor for post-loss amplification. Because of the impacts to the wine industry throughout the region, RMS notes the significant uncertainty regarding the long-term business interruption for this event, which could result in a higher total loss.

It is important to note that these events are still on-going and the perimeters of the active fires may change significantly before containment. Therefore, these exposure and loss estimate are considered preliminary and are representative of the current situations.

A Decade of Natural Catastrophe Losses in China

In a recent study on China’s natural catastrophe (NatCat) perils, Gen Re collected direct economic loss data over the past 10 years (2007 to 2016).  I.I.I. staffer Brent Carris sums up the study below.

During the 10-year period covered by the study, 24 percent of catastrophe related economic losses came from earthquakes, only topped by droughts, at 25 percent. The remaining damages consisted of: rainstorms, typhoons, snow and low temperature, and hail and tornados at 24 percent, 12 percent, 8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.  In 2008, there was a significant spike in losses due to the Sichuan Earthquake.

According to AIR Worldwide, catastrophe insurance indemnity account for only 9 percent of direct economic loss in Asia. In China, a projection of this number would be even lower if based on the past 10 years’ major NatCat events. For example, insurance payout against total direct economic loss for the Sichuan earthquake in 2008 was 0.2%, and less than 1% for the Ya’an earthquake in 2013. Insurers are reluctant to provide coverage for high risk areas, notably due to insufficient pricing and the inability to monitor NatCat accumulation/aggregates.

The situation is expected to improve, however, as the development of catastrophe insurance is deemed an important aspect of the growth of China’s insurance industry.

Behind the Numbers: AIR’s Puerto Rico Estimate

Catastrophe modeler AIR shook up the insurance world this week with its insured loss estimate for the Caribbean from Hurricane Maria: $40 billion to $85 billion – which would put it on par with Hurricane Katrina and the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami as the worst insured catastrophes in history, according to I.I.I. research.

Concerned mixed with skepticism; RMS has an estimate less than half the size. This from the Artemis reinsurance blog:

The size of AIR’s industry loss estimate has already raised questions among industry analysts, some of whom are questioning the range and believe the eventual industry exposure could be even lower than the bottom end of it.

But AIR’s estimate reflects the enormous damage and disruption that hurricane Maria has caused and with Puerto Rico badly hit the final cost to insurance and reinsurance interests is going to be very high.

Late Thursday, AIR published an explanation of their estimate. They call it “all but the perfect storm for Puerto Rico.” Intense winds enveloped the island; not a corner escaped. And Puerto Rico, unlike most Caribbean islands, has a significant industrial presence – more than $120 billion, and that is where two-thirds of the AIR’s estimate comes from.

The range of the estimate is quite wide. For Puerto Rico by itself, it’s $35 billion to $70 billion. Sources of uncertainty, AIR indicates, are

  • Demand surge.
  • How dwellings will contend with the wind vs. water question.
  • How business interruption and business income losses will unfold, particularly among hotels. Other BI issues include how much excess inventory manufacturers have on hand, how soon infrastructure will resuscitate, and whether insurance settlements will be affected by political pressure.

Update: As were getting ready to post, RMS explained its pick. TL;DR – industrial buildings on the island are sturdily built, so not much damage. And Karen Clark & Co. puts Puerto Rico losses at $28 billion, in about the same range as RMS.