Insured losses associated with 2018’s Hurricane Michael reached almost $7.44 billion, according to a recent Florida Office of Insurance Regulation (FOIR) update. The losses consist of residential and commercial property, private flood and business interruption insurance, and miscellaneous coverages. There were 149,773 claims made, and 89 percent of them were closed.
Hurricane Michael became a Category 5 storm on October 10, 2018, and made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida, in the Florida Panhandle. It was the strongest hurricane to ever hit the Florida Panhandle and the second known Category 5 landfall on the northern Gulf Coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. It was the first Category 5 storm to make landfall in the United States since Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
An Artemis analysis of the FOIR report says that based on the run-rate of costs per claim (around $65,890 per claim), another $1 billion could be added to the total before every claim is closed down and that many of the claims remaining open will be among the more costly. Fewer than 69 percent of commercial property claims are closed, compared to almost 89 percent of residential. Business interruption claims are also slow to close and therefore are likely to increase the total.
You’re more likely to die from being attacked by a dog than in an airline accident (see chart).
And yet, according to a recent Allianz Global Corporate & Specialty (AGCS) report, the aviation sector’s insurance claims continue to grow in number and size.
The report – Aviation Risk 2020 – says 2017 was the first in at least 60 years of aviation in which there were no fatalities on a commercial airline. The year 2018, in which 15 fatal accidents occurred, ranks as the third safest year ever.
Of more than 29,000 recorded deaths between 1959 and 2017, the report says, fatalities between 2008 and 2017 accounted for less than 8 percent – despite the vast increase in the number of people and planes in the air since 1959.
So, what gives?
Safety is expensive
Some of the reasons for the increased claims are good ones: Safer aircraft cost more to repair and replace when there are problems.
The report analyzed 50,000 aviation claims from 2013 to 2018, worth $16.3 billion, and found “collision/crash incidents” accounted for 57 percent, or $9.3 billion. Now, this may sound bad, but the category includes things like hard landings, bird strikes, and “runway incidents.”
The AGCS analysis showed 470 runway incidents during the five-year period accounted for $883 million of damages.
Engine costs more than the plane
Today’s aircraft contain far more sophisticated electronics and materials than those flying in the 1960s. When they bump into each other or come down too hard, they cost more to repair.
“We recently handled a claim where a rental engine was required while the aircraft’s engine was repaired,” said Dave Watkins, regional head of general aviation, North America, at AGCS. “The value of the rental engine was more than the entire aircraft.”
When entire fleets have to be grounded – the report cites the 2013 grounding of the Boeing Dreamliner for lithium-ion battery problems and the more recent fatal crashes involving the Boeing 737 Max – costs can really soar. Boeing reportedly has set aside about $5 billion to cover costs related to the global grounding of the 737 Max.
Even after a fix is found, the task of retrofitting a fleet takes considerable time – and, in the aviation industry, time truly is money.
Liability awards take off
Compounding the claims associated with the costs of safer flight, the report says, liability awards have risen dramatically.
“With fewer major airline losses,” Watkins said, “attorneys are fighting over a much smaller pool and are putting more resources into fewer claims, pushing more aggressively for higher awards.”
Today’s aircraft carry hundreds of passengers at a time. With liability awards per passenger in the millions, a major aviation loss could easily result in a liability loss of $1 billion or more.
Never heard of “social inflation”? It’s a fancy term to describe rising litigation costs and their impact on insurers’ claim payouts, loss ratios, and, ultimately, how much policyholders pay for coverage.
While there’s no universally agreed-upon definition, frequently mentioned aspects of social inflation are growing awards from sympathetic juries and a trend called “litigation funding”, in which investors pay plaintiffs to sue large companies – often insurers – in return for a share in the settlement.
Assignment of benefits (AOB) is a standard insurance practice and an efficient, customer-friendly way to settle claims. As a convenience, a policyholder lets a third party – say, an auto glass repair company – directly bill the insurer.
In Florida, however, legislative wrinkles have spawned a crisis.
The state’s “David and Goliath” law was meant to level the playing field between policyholders and economically powerful insurers. It lets plaintiffs’ attorneys collect fees from the insurer if they win their case – but not vice versa. If the insurer wins, the plaintiff owes the insurer nothing. This creates an incentive for attorneys to file thousands of AOB-related suits because there is no limit on the fees they can collect and no risk. Legal fees can dwarf actual damages paid to the policyholder – sometimes tens of thousands of dollars for a single low-damage claim.
AOBs are an efficient, customer-friendly way to settle claims…. In Florida, however, legislative wrinkles have spawned a crisis.
This type of arrangement is unique to Florida. And, despite efforts to contain it through reforms to the state’s personal injury protection (PIP) program, the abuse has spread beyond its origins in the southern part of the state and to other lines than personal auto and homeowner’s insurance. More than 153,000 AOB suits were filed in Florida in 2018 – a 94% increase from about 1,300 five years earlier.
Contributing to the crisis is the ease with which unscrupulous contractors can “find” damage unrelated to an insured incident or overbill for work done and file a claim. Florida statutes let policyholders assign benefits to a third party without insurer consent – which limits the insurer’s ability to monitor a claim to make sure costs aren’t inflated.
A measure signed into law by Gov. Ron DeSantisearlier this year aimed to curb AOB litigation by putting new requirements on contractors and letting insurers offer policies with limited AOB rights, or none at all. However, it excludes auto glass repairs. The number of auto glass AOB lawsuits statewide in 2013 was over 3,800; by 2017, that number had grown to more than 20,000.
Florida’s experience provides an ongoing study into how hard it can be to stuff the social inflation genie back into its bottle.
The House Financial Services Committee on October 31 approved an amended version of the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program Reauthorization Act of 2019 that would require the Government Accountability Office (GAO) to report on cyberterrorism risks and the Department of Treasury to issue a biennial report that includes “disaggregated data on places of worship.”
The Terrorism Risk Insurance Act of 2002 (TRIA), approved after the 9/11 terrorist attacks in New York City and Washington, D.C., provided a backstop to encourage insurers to resume writing terrorism policies. After 9/11, primary insurers sought to explicitly exclude terrorism coverage from their commercial policies, and reinsurers became unwilling to assume risks in urban areas perceived as vulnerable to attack.
TRIA created the Terrorism Risk Insurance Program(TRIP), a federal loss-sharing program for certain insured losses resulting from a certified act of terrorism. TRIP provides a backstop for insurers and has to be periodically reauthorized. It is currently due to expire at the end of 2020.
In addition to the reporting requirements mentioned above, the amended legislation shortens the extension period from 10 years.
The bill says the cyber report should analyze the general vulnerabilities and potential costs of cyberattacks on the nation’s infrastructure and reach conclusions about whether cyberrisk, particularly cyberliabilities, under property/casualty insurance, can be sufficiently covered and adequately priced.
The insurance industry has praised the progress of the extension as well as the proposed studies of cyber exposures. The next step toward TRIA reauthorization is a floor vote in the House of Representatives.
Follow the conversation about the federal terrorism backstop here.
By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute
Deer season—which usually runs from October through December—can be a dangerous time for motorists. During this period, deer are moving frequently and often cross over dangerous areas, like highways and other heavily-trafficked areas.
Indeed, between July 1, 2018 and June 30, 2019 one out of every 116 drivers had an insurance claim from hitting an animal, according to State Farm. These claims were most likely in West Virginia, with one in 38 people making an insurance claim based on this kind of accident.
With this in mind, it’s important to take precautions when driving during this period of the year. Deer often travel in groups, so it’s vital to slow down with even one deer on the side of the road. Additionally, try to brake instead of swerving if faced with a crash. Above all, be alert—there’s no substitute for prudence during deer season.
The Insurance Information Institute has Facts & Statistics on deer vehicle collisions here.
By Max Dorfman, Research Writer, Insurance Information Institute
Brexit and Lloyd’s of London
The latest (but perhaps not the last) Brexit deadline is set for January 31, 2020. Yet the insurers most affected by the U.K.’s divorce from the European Union (EU) have plans in place to continue business with minimal disruption. Indeed, U.K. businesses have been operating in the EU’s Single Market for so long, many are questioning how these entities will adapt to increased regulations. One entity where these questions are particularly relevant is Lloyd’s of London.
What is Lloyd’s?
Lloyd’s is not an insurance company, but a marketplace where capital and underwriting converge on a global platform operated by the Corporation of Lloyd’s. Lloyd’s includes five key stakeholders: syndicates, which function as underwriting entities, assuming risks and paying claims; managing agents, who capitalize and operate the syndicates; brokers, who are intermediaries between policyholders and syndicates; coverholders, which are local MGA’s that underwrite risks on behalf of a syndicate/managing agent (and which also enables the Lloyd’s market to operate globally without establishing local offices); and insurance buyers, many of whom buy insurance through Lloyd’s for complex, emerging or otherwise unique risks. Syndicates specialize in different types of insurance and reinsurance, often participating with each other on a subscription basis (meaning they only take on a part of the risk and pay part of the claim).
With gross global premiums written at almost $45 billion in 2018, 13 percent of that generated by the post-Brexit European Union, there were legitimate concerns about how Brexit would affect Lloyd’s role in the EU marketplace. Due to Brexit, “non-admitted” U.K. insurers will no longer be able to conduct insurance business in some EU countries, meaning that nonauthorized insurers cannot conduct business in regulated insurance industries in a different market (which is currently the case in France, Italy, and under certain circumstances, in Germany).
However, Lloyd’s quickly pivoted to ensure that it will continue to provide non-life insurance throughout the European market, regardless of Brexit’s outcome. Although it is anticipated that most of the European Economic Area (EEA) reinsurance will still be written through London on a cross-border basis, in case of a hard Brexit non-life insurance could be covered by Lloyd’s Brussels, which opened in 2018.
Still, non-EU coverholders for Lloyd’s of London—who could previously conduct business throughout the EU without physical offices and permissions from member states—will have to seek proper authorization from the EEA under a “Coverholder Appointment Agreement” (CAA) with Lloyd’s Brussels. This may affect where managing agents raise capital.
Will these new regulations be felt in the US?
A very substantial portion of Lloyd’s international business—over 40 percent of global premiums as of 2018 —is generated in the U.S., with significant exposure on the U.S. insurance lines. While the new regulations will not directly affect business between the U.S. and U.K., the primary concern will be the volume of business in the EEA, which could potentially decrease. But if Lloyd’s pivots some of its business away from Europe, the U.S. could get more attention. In fact, John Neal, Lloyd’s chief executive, stated in an interview with the Financial Times that “If you’re in insurance or investment banking or banking, one dollar in two dollars of everything you do is still U.S. derived, so it’s very important that you maintain your connection and your relevance with the U.S. market.”
By Janet Ruiz, Director of Strategic Communications, Insurance Information Institute
On October 30 the National Weather Service issued its first-ever extreme red flag warning for Southern California and expects hurricane-force winds to continue until the first weekend in November. On October 31, 19 million people remained under red-flag warnings in the area. Thom Porter, head of Cal Fire, said that at least 20 separate wildfires broke out in Southern California on October 30.
In Northern California the Kincade Fire is 60 percent contained after burning for a week. Evacuees are now returning home. I watched the Kincade Fire from the northern side on Mt St. Helena. Airplanes and helicopters made their way in and out of the fire non-stop and firefighters were able to keep the fire out of the towns of Windsor and Healdsburg.
Here’s a photo from my back yard:
According to the LA Times, an intense surge in pre-deployed firefighting resources prevented the fire from destroying homes so far. Officials say the preparations for the winds have given them a fighting chance that they didn’t have last year, when the Woolsey fire — one of California’s most destructive on record — burned more than 1,000 homes and resulted in three deaths. Officials have said the battle against that fire was hampered by a lack of resources.
Legislation passed in Sacramento, first signed by Gov. Jerry Brown and then made permanent under Gov. Gavin Newsom, has allocated millions of dollars to pre-position firefighting resources during severe fire weather.
When you return home it is important to start the claim process right away.
Contact your agent or company to find out:
What’s covered under your homeowners or business policy – Fire is a covered loss
How to get additional living expenses and temporary housing – Keep receipts
Coverage for property, contents, outbuildings and loss of use – Take photos of damage
A timeline for the claims process
How to get estimates for rebuilding
Write down your questions and be sure to get them all answered. The claims adjusters are your financial first responders and are here to help you recover and rebuild!