Category Archives: Catastrophes

Bermuda and Insurance: Small Country,
Mighty Contribution

By John Novaria, Managing Director, Amplify

Bermuda is more than pink beaches and golden sunsets – it’s a major force in the re/insurance industry. The Association of Bermuda Insurers & Reinsurers (ABIR) works to raise the profile of Bermuda’s reinsurers and insurers and represents their public policy interests around the world.

ABIR CEO John Huff recently sat down with Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan to discuss the contribution of Bermuda companies to global resiliency. Some of those contributions include:

  • Bermuda insurers and reinsurers paid $2.7 billion in claims from last winter’s storms in Texas.
  • Some Bermuda companies are preparing to step up and help fund new U.S. infrastructure projects through their investment portfolios.
  • According to the Bermuda Monetary Authority, the island nation is home to 1,200 (re)insurers holding more than $980 billion total assets and writing gross premium of approximately $240 billion.

Huff is excited about the role the re/insurance industry is playing in securing a more resilient future for society.

“If you talk to your kids, this may be the first time our work is resonating with the next generation,” he says. “I do think it’s our opportunity to lead in the area of climate, resilience and adaptation.”

In discussing the Bermuda value proposition, Huff noted the concentration of exceptional talent within a square mile of Hamilton’s business district, which has captured the attention of investors who have plowed capital into the jurisdiction to form startup companies. Huff also said many established companies in Bermuda are scaling up by expanding their capabilities to take on more risk through analytics, underwriting and capital allocation.

Indeed, Bermuda is full of surprises. Huff said the general public doen’t realize that Bermuda companies underwrite half of the mortgage insurance sold in the US, creating opportunities for more young families to purchase their first home.

Learn more about ABIR.

2021 P/C Underwriting Profitability May Be Hampered By CAT Losses, Social Inflation,
Triple-I/Milliman Predict

By Loretta Worters, Vice President, Media Relations, Triple-I

Property/casualty insurers are projected to have less-than-stellar underwriting profits in 2021, according to a forecast released today by the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I) and risk-management firm Milliman.

Sean Kevelighan, Triple-I

The forecast – presented in a members-only webinar, “Triple-I /Milliman Underwriting Projections: A Forward View,” moderated by Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan – projects a 2021 combined ratio of 99.6. Combined ratio is the percentage of each premium dollar an insurer spends on claims and expenses.

The industry ended 2020 profitably, with a combined ratio of 98.7.  Combined ratios for 2022 and 2023 are projected to be 98.9 and 99.3, respectively. 

Losses from atypical weather events in the first quarter – particularly, the Texas freeze – got the year off to a rough start, explained Dave Moore of Moore Actuarial Consulting.

Natural catastrophe losses at a decade high

Dave Moore, Moore Actuarial

“Insured losses from natural disasters worldwide hit a 10-year high of $42 billion in the first half of 2021, with the biggest loss related to extreme cold in the United States in February,” Moore said, citing Aon statistics. “Overall, catastrophe loss estimates are in the $15 billion to $20 billion range for the Texas freeze event, and the rest of the year doesn’t look promising for CAT losses overall. Extreme weather this spring brought multi-billion-dollar thunderstorm and hail losses, and the extreme drought in the West has helped fuel another severe wildfire season.”

Jason B. Kurtz, FCAS, MAAA, a principal and consulting actuary at Milliman – an independent risk-management, benefits, and technology firm – said the current hard insurance market will persist, particularly in lines that have been hit hard by social inflation. A hard market is defined as a period of increasing premiums and decreasing insurance capacity.

Jason B. Kurtz, Milliman

Premium growth for the industry is projected to hit 7 percent in 2021. Growth is expected to slow in 2022 and 2023 but will remain above 5 percent both years.

“Lines like commercial auto, commercial multiperil, and general liability will still struggle to get their combined ratios under 100,” he said. “With ransomware attacks on the rise and tightening capacity, cyber bears watching, and homeowners insurers will have another tough year in 2021, but we predict improvement for 2022 and 2023.”

Michel Léonard, PhD, CBE, vice president, senior economist, and head of Triple-I’s Economics and Analytics Department, took a preliminary look at property/casualty industry results for 2021 and trends for the rest of the year. He noted that insurance outperformed the overall economy in 2019 and 2020 but was not likely to do as well in 2021.

Michel Léonard, Triple-I

“Right now, economists seem to be shifting growth from 2022 to 2021. That’s not good for insurance because of our industry’s business cycles. Shifting this growth means we are not expected to outperform the wider economy in 2021– but we are in 2022.  What’s best for our industry is growth increasing, not decreasing, from 2021 to 2022.”

Roy Wright, IBHS

Regarding wildfire season, Roy Wright, president and CEO of the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety (IBHS), noted that as the climate changes and the population expands into the wildland urban interface, wildfires are intersecting suburban life. Wildfire losses continue to mount year after year and make clear the need for communities to adapt, he said.

Runaway litigation

Commercial auto insurance has been hit harder by litigation trends than any other line of business, according to David Corum, vice president at the Insurance Research Council (IRC).

David Corum, IRC

“We estimate broadly that social inflation increased commercial auto liability claims by more than $8 billion between 2010 and 2019,” Corum said. “We are also seeing evidence that social inflation is becoming a factor in personal auto claims.” He noted that a soon-to-be-released paper by the Triple-I, Moore Actuarial Consulting, and the Casualty Actuarial Society will address this topic more broadly.

Pat Sullivan, senior editor and conference co-chair at Risk Information Inc., explained that commercial auto insurers spent the last few years trying to price themselves into profitability with little success.

Pat Sullivan, Risk Information

Sullivan noted that COVID-19 wasn’t great for growth:  “Commercial auto direct written premiums rose about one percent in 2020, compared to 12 percent in 2019, 13 percent in 2018, and 9 percent in 2017. Commercial auto’s underlying claims issues haven’t gone away.”

COVID-19 and business interruption

The past 15 months have been extraordinary from a legal perspective on COVID-19 business interruption claims, according to Michael Menapace, partner, Wiggin and Dana LLP and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar.

Michael Menapace, Wiggin and Dana

“To date, 80 percent of the judicial decisions have dismissed policyholders’ claims without regard to whether the presence of SARS-CoV-2 or the government shutdown orders were the cause of their losses, Menapace said. That dismissal rate goes up to 95 percent when the policies also include a virus exclusion.”

“There have been some outlier business interruption decisions in favor of policyholders and some less favorable jurisdictions for insurers that we are watching,” he said.  “Insurers must also remain vigilant by pushing back against proposals by state legislatures or executive agencies that would change the terms of insurance contracts to provide coverage where none was intended and for which no premium was paid.”

Looking forward, Menapace said the trend of dismissals in the trial courts should continue.

“There has been only one appellate court decision concerning business interruption coverage,” he said. “But, over the next 12-18 months, the focus will start shifting to state and federal appellate courts, which will have the final say on many of these issues.”

Atlantic hurricane season

Dr Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and Triple-I Non-Resident Scholar, gave his updated projections for the 2021 hurricane season.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Colorado State University

Klotzbach noted that 2021 is expected to have an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 18 named storms, eight of which will become hurricanes. Of those eight, four will likely become major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5 with winds of a 111 mph or greater).  That compares with the long-term average of about 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Insurance, Evac Plans
Are Key for Wildfire Safety, Resilience

The formation of nine large wildfires this week—three in Washington, two in California and Oregon, and one each in Idaho and Montana—highlight the importance of having an evacuation plan and the right coverage.

“Insurers are fulfilling their traditional role as the nation’s financial first responders as thousands of Americans evacuate in the West,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan.  “Wildfires are actively burning millions of acres, and as we are seeing these regions becoming more populated, it will be critical to focus on rebuilding communities in a more resilient manner, as well as make changes to public policies that are hindering the ability to clean and remove tinder which are fueling the devastation.”

Triple-I’s Resilience Accelerator demonstrates the power of insurance as a force for resilience.  It does so by telling the story of how insurance coverage helps governments, businesses, and individuals recover faster and more completely after catastrophes.  The Resilience Accelerator also links to HazardHub, an organization that assesses the wildfire risks individual properties face nationwide.

The National Interagency Fire Center (NIFC) reported yesterday that 1.95 million acres have burned in the U.S. during 2021. California’s Antelope, Dixie, McFarland, and Monument Fires grew by thousands of acres over the past few days, the NIFC added. 

Oregon’s Bootleg fire, which has been burning along the Oregon and California border since July 6, continues to challenge firefighters while new blazes emerge.

“We are running firefighting operations through the day and all through the night,” said Joe Hessel, incident commander. “We are looking at sustained battle for the foreseeable future.”

A standard homeowners insurance policy covers wildfire-caused property damage to a home’s structure and its outbuildings (e.g., garage), as well as the personal belongings housed on the premises.  A renter’s insurance policy covers the renter’s personal belongings. If a residence has been rendered temporarily uninhabitable by a wildfire, standard homeowners and renters insurance policies provide additional living expenses (ALE).

Triple-I offers the following tips to those who live in a wildfire-prone community.

  • Have an evacuation plan
  • Check with your insurer to see if you’re eligible to collect ALE. Some states allow ALE claims to be filed in the event of mandatory evacuations. Be sure to save hotel and restaurant receipts
  • File a claim with your insurer as soon as you are aware of damages to your property
  • Take photos of damage prior to making repairs
  • When making either temporary or permanent repairs, save receipts to give to your insurance claim adjuster
  • Only use licensed contractors to make repairs and beware of contractor fraud
  • Fire-damaged autos are covered under the optional comprehensive coverage on your auto policy

RELATED LINKS:

Article: Wildfires: Insurance and Recovery Resources

Video:  Triple-I Tips During Evacuation Orders

Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast
Reduced Slightly

Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers have slightly reduced their forecast for 2021 Atlantic hurricane activity in an August 5 update.

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team, led by Triple-I non-resident scholar Dr. Phil Klotzbach,  predicts 18 named storms this year (down from 20 in the previous forecast), eight of which are expected to become hurricanes (down from nine). Four of the hurricanes are expected to be “major” (Category 3, 4, or 5).

Despite the slight drop in the number of storms, the 2021 hurricane season – which runs from June 1 to November 30 — is forecast to be above average and follows a record-breaking 2020 season. An average season has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

As Nat Cat Losses Mount,
A Resilience Mindset Matters More Than Ever

Insurance is essential for individuals, businesses, and communities to recover quickly from natural  catastrophes – but perils have evolved to a point at which risk transfer, though necessary, isn’t enough to ensure resilience.

Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan said during a that better insured communities recover more quickly but “the long-term resilience of both the communities impacted by natural catastrophes and of the industry itself depend on preparedness and improved risk mitigation.”  He was one of three panelists participating in the webinar.

“Something’s Got to Give”

Insured U.S. natural catastrophe losses totaled $67 billion in 2020 after an Atlantic hurricane season which included 30 named storms, record-setting wildfires in California, Colorado, and the Pacific Northwest, and a severe derecho in Iowa. This year’s hurricane season looks to be more severe; the Bootleg wildfire in Oregon – so large and intense it has begun to create its own weather and is affecting air quality as far east as New York City – isn’t  expected to be fully contained until late November; and these disasters are taking place on the heels of devastating winter storms in the first quarter.

As Kevelighan put it in his panel remarks, pointing to a 700 percent increase in insurer loss costs since the 1980s, “Something’s got to give.”

“As the country’s financial first responders,” he said, “insurers are not just responsible for providing relief to the communities affected by natural disasters, but also planning for potential catastrophes to come.”  

One of the ways insurers do this, he said, is by building the industry’s cumulative policyholders’ surplus—the amount of money remaining after insurers’ collective liabilities are subtracted from their assets. At year-end 2020, the U.S. policyholders’ surplus stood at a record-high $914.3 billion.

Mitigate and educate

The role of the insurance industry has grown beyond merely taking on risks to educating the public, regulators, and corporate decision makers on the changing nature of risk and driving a resilience mindset characterized by a focus on pre-emptive mitigation and rapid recovery. Triple-I and a host of other insurance industry organizations have played a key role in promoting public-private partnerships and using advanced data and analytics to understand and address hazards in advance.

For example, Triple-I’s online Resilience Accelerator provides access to data and risk maps that empowers the public to assess and prepare for risks specific to their own communities.

This webinar, co-presented by The Institutes’ Griffith Foundation and the Insurance Regulator Education Foundation, included panelists Hanna Grant, Head of the Secretariat, Access to Insurance Initiative; and Dr. Abhishek Varma, Associate Professor, Finance, Insurance and Law, Illinois State University. It was moderated by James Jones, Executive Director, Katie School of Insurance and Financial Services, Illinois State University.

Webinar highlights:

Unethical Contractors Emerge After Disasters; Know How to Avoid Them

Natural disasters create opportunities for unethical contractors, and consumers need to be on the alert.

Post-disaster repair scams typically start when a contractor makes an unsolicited visit to a homeowner and pressures the homeowner to pay the contractor their insurance claim money – then disappear without doing the work.

Triple-I is teaming up with the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) during the NICB’s Contractor Fraud Awareness Week (July 12-16) to educate the public about such frauds and how to avoid them.

Before hiring any contractor, consumers affected by a natural disaster should call their insurer. There’s no need to rush into an agreement. Homeowners should inspect all work and make sure they are satisfied before paying. Most contractors will require a reasonable down payment, but no payments should be made until a written contract is in place.

The NICB offers these tips to homeowners before hiring a contractor:

  • Be wary of anyone knocking on your door offering unsolicited repairs to your home. 
  • Be suspicious of any contractor who rushes you or says the government endorses them.
  • Shop around for a contractor by getting recommendations from people you trust.
  • Get three written estimates for the work and compare bids.
  • Check a contractor’s credentials with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Always ask for a written contract that clearly states everything the contractor will do.
  • Never sign a contract with blank spaces because it could be altered afterward.
  • Never pay for work up front and avoid paying with cash; use either a check or credit card.

The NICB Post-Disaster Contractor Search Checklist explains the contractor hiring process step by step.  Anyone with information concerning insurance fraud or vehicle theft can report it anonymously by calling toll-free 800-TEL-NICB (800-835-6422) or submitting a form to the NICB.

“Acting as communities’ financial first responders, insurers rebuild damaged homes, cars, and lives after a natural disaster,” said Triple-I CEO Sean Kevelighan.  “The Insurance Information Institute is proud to join forces with the NICB to educate consumers and communities about how to best prepare and recover economically.”

“Victims of disasters are under tremendous stress as they are often pulled from their homes, fight heavy traffic attempting to get to safety, all while leaving their home and belongings behind,” said NICB President and CEO David Glawe. “When they go home, they are exhausted and strained, a time when they are most susceptible to these fraudulent schemes.”

RELATED LINKS:

Article: Insurance Fraud

Facts & Statistics: Insurance Fraud

Long-Term Considerations
From Condo Collapse

The insurer for the Champlain Towers South condo association has said it will make an up-front payment to resolve damage claims related to the 12-story beachfront property in the Miami  suburb of  Surfside, Fla., that collapsed on June 24, 2021.

“We want to make it known that James River Insurance Company has made the decision to voluntarily tender its entire limit from the enclosed policy towards attempting to resolve all the claims in this matter,” the insurer’s attorney wrote to the judge handling a class-action lawsuit seeking millions of dollars in damages from the association.

Since the collapse last week, four residents or their families have filed lawsuits against the association. Many more suits are expected in the coming months, and litigation could take years as investigators work to determine what caused the collapse. The first court hearing was held yesterday, and a Miami-Dade Circuit judge acknowledged that the building’s $48 million in total insurance coverage likely won’t be enough.

In all, the court heard, the condo association’s master policy has $30 million in property coverage and $18 million in liability coverage. The condo association has agreed to hand over financial decision making to a court-appointed “receiver.”

Seeking survivors as storm nears

With investigators still working to find and rescue survivors and Hurricane Elsa – the first of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season and earliest “E-named” storm on record – heading toward Florida, the situation remains fluid. This week, dozens of units at a Central Florida condominium complex near Disney World were deemed unsafe after an inspection found the walkways leading to the units were at risk of collapsing, according to an Osceola County spokesperson.  Residents were advised to enter the buildings containing the units at their own risk, the spokesperson said, adding that county staff were offering residents assistance with temporary housing.

Increased attention to the condition of older high-rise buildings in South Florida and across the U.S. in the wake of the Champlain Towers collapse could lead to a rise in claims for loss-of-use coverage. In addition, many businesses in the vicinity of the collapse have been made inaccessible during the rescue operation, which could lead to business interruption claims.

Spotlight on building codes

Furthermore, this event could lead to a review of building codes and inspection practices nationwide. South Florida’s building codes are among the nation’s strongest – designed to keep residents safe from hurricanes. The state implemented mandatory codes after Category 5 Hurricane Andrew ripped homes from their foundations and left 65 dead in Homestead in 1992, and some counties – particularly in South Florida – have added more stringent requirements.

But after last week’s collapse, IBHS chief engineer Anne Cope said, “This is a moment like Katrina and Andrew, where we are going to learn something and make changes.”

Many of the region’s buildings – including  Champlain Towers South – were built before 1992 as part of a South Florida condo boom. Those buildings are subject to codes that were in place at the time of their construction, and are only required to undergo local county inspections every 40 years – such as the 2018 review of the Surfside condo in which an engineer raised red flags that the building was beginning to address but didn’t warn of imminent disaster.

A FEMA study last year said implementation of modern building codes could save states and localities billions of dollars.

Extreme Weather’s Seasonal Severity Impacts Rates, Regardless of Inflation, Price Gouging

Losses from the winter storm that swept through the southern United States earlier this year continue to loom large among the concerns of property and casualty insurers, even as the nation contends with wildfires and anticipates yet another above-average hurricane season.

“On its own, Uri would not necessarily impact premium rates,” says Dr. Michel Léonard, CBE, Triple-I vice president and senior economist. “What matters is the overall severity of extreme weather events during a calendar year or a specific peril season.”

Dr. Léonard reports that current expectations among weather experts of higher-than-average hurricane and wildfire seasons – in addition to Uri – will likely contribute to increases in property insurance rates in 2021, “before and regardless of inflation.”

“Traditionally, actuarial models keep natural catastrophe losses and inflation separate and combine them in the last stage of rate estimates,” Léonard says. 

Three 2021 trends, he says, add up to put upward significant pressure on insurance rates for 2022:

  • Combined 2021 natural catastrophe losses from winter storms, hurricanes, and wildfires expected to be above annual averages;
  • Overall inflation in the U.S. currently forecast to be between 4% and 6% for 2021, the highest in a decade; and
  • Industry-specific inflation above the national average for construction materials and labor due to COVID-19 supply-chain disruptions.

“There are a few situations in which extreme weather events directly contribute to replacement cost increases, which, in turn, impact rates,” Léonard says. “But ‘price gouging’ – such as happened after Uri – shouldn’t be confused with inflation. It’s temporary, while inflation almost always endures.”