Ten Years After Major Japan Quake, U.S. Faces Similar Threat


For immediate release
California Press Office, Janet Ruiz, 707-490-9365, janetr@iii.org

NEW YORK, March 10, 2021—A decade after a devastating magnitude-9.0 earthquake struck Japan, the U.S. remains largely uninsured against this natural disaster, according to the Insurance Information Institute (Triple-I).

Nearly 16,000 people died after the costliest earthquake and tsunami in world history hit Japan on March 11, 2011, about 230 miles northeast of Tokyo.

Since then, the U.S. has been spared quakes anywhere near that magnitude yet California’s 2019 Ridgecrest quake and 2014’s South Napa earthquake highlighted its vulnerability to earth movement.

“The potential cost of U.S. earthquakes has been growing because of increasing development in seismically active areas and the vulnerability of many older buildings,” said Janet Ruiz, the California-based Director, Strategic Communications, Triple-I.

Standard homeownersrenters, and small business insurance policies generally do not cover most earthquake-caused property damage. Fire following a quake as well as other kinds of damage that may result from earthquakes, such as water damage due to burst gas and water pipes, are often covered under standard homeowners, renters, and small business insurance policies.

Private-passenger vehicles are covered for earthquake damage under the optional comprehensive part of an auto insurance policy. About four out of every five insured U.S. drivers (78 percent) opt to purchase comprehensive coverage, a Triple-I analysis found.

Earthquake coverage in the U.S. is available in the form of a separate policy or an endorsement from most private insurers and, for residences in California, from the California Earthquake Authority (CEA). The CEA was formed after 1994’s Northridge earthquake in California, the costliest seismic event in U.S. history, as defined by insured losses ($26.85 billion, in 2019 dollars).

To get more insights and to find out whether earthquake insurance is available in your area, contact either your insurance professional or your state insurance department.


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