Property Damage

Hailstorms Grow Less Predictable and More Expensive

Hailstorms are happening more often and striking more severely. The insurance industry is trying to find ways to mitigate the damage.
By: | July 18, 2016 • 4 min read

Hailstorms increased in frequency and severity over the last 20 years, largely a result of climate change and more extreme weather conditions. Insurance costs are spiking as a result, too.

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Hail causes about $1 billion in damage to crops and property in the United States every year, according to the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

In 2015, NOAA’s Severe Storms database recorded 5,411 major hailstorms. The worst affected area was Texas, with 783 hailstorms.

“The hardest part for some customers has been that there have been successive hailstorms.” — Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

This year, hailstorms in late March and April are expected to result in total losses to vehicles, homes and businesses in north San Antonio and Bexar County of more than $2 billion, according to the Insurance Council of Texas.

San Antonio’s first hailstorm on April 12 became the costliest hailstorm in Texas history, the council said.

Between 2000 and 2013, U.S. insurers paid out almost $54 billion in claims from hail losses, and 70 percent of the losses occurred in just the last six years, said a report by Verisk Insurance Solutions.

The average claim severity was also 65 percent higher during that period, than from 2000 to 2007, the report said. Most losses were from broken windows and roof damage.

Added to that, hailstorms are increasingly harder to forecast and are occurring in unlikely places, with reports of hail this year in warmer climates such as South Florida.

Trying to Better Understand How Hail is Produced

Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

Jill Dalton, managing director, Aon Global Risk Consulting

Now, insurers and scientists are trying to better understand how hail is produced and take steps to mitigate damage.

“The hardest part for some customers has been that there have been successive hailstorms,” Jill Dalton, managing director at Aon Global Risk Consulting.

“When it happens over such a short period of time, as in the case of the recent Texas hailstorms, it’s hard to deduce what was damage from the first storm versus the third or fourth storm.”

Steve Bowen, director at Aon Benfield’s Impact Forecasting team, said that the location and intensity of the hailstorm were the most important factors in determining the magnitude of hail damage.

For example, if a hailstorm hits a more densely populated area it is likely to cause more damage.

“It is really important to emphasize that the total number of hail reports does not necessarily correlate to either higher or lower level of losses,” he said.

He said that, overall, insurable damage resulting from severe convective storms in the United States increased by 6.5 percent above the rate of inflation annually since 1980, most of which was attributed to hailstorms.

“The research done will also enable us to characterize the event in order to forecast future storms more effectively.” — Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

The Insurance Institute of Business & Home Safety (IBHS), a consortium of insurers, has been working with the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Boulder, Colo., to find ways to strengthen homes and businesses against hail damage.

Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist, IBHS Research Center

“Overall hail losses are going up and a lot of it is to do with that fact that we are simply putting a lot more stuff in the path of storms nowadays,” said Ian Giammanco, lead research meteorologist at the IBHS Research Center.

“So, moving forward now, risk mitigation strategies are going to become much more important and that can be achieved with improved product and testing to ensure that they are properly hail resistant.

“The research done will also enable us to characterize the event in order to forecast future storms more effectively.”

Take Steps to Reduce Losses

Lynne McChristian, Florida representative for the Insurance Information Institute, said that given the difference in quality of roofing materials in terms of impact resistance, it was paramount to invest in the proper type of covering.

Others steps include making sure that the roof is fully secured.

The insurance industry has an Underwriters Laboratory standard for roofing material with four classes of impact level. Class 4 is the most resistant. In some cases, insurers will provide a discount for roofs made with hail resistant materials.

After the event, it is important to assess any damage and protect property against further damage by covering broken windows and plugging holes in the roof.

Most property insurance policies will cover against hail damage, as will comprehensive auto coverage.

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“A hailstorm is a typically covered loss included as a named peril,” said Dalton.

She added that usually there are no policy limits on hail and most coverage is subject to a deductible.

In hail prone areas, such as Texas and South Carolina, the deductible is higher than for other perils. However, both states have a fund to provide hail coverage in areas where it is not available in the private market.

After the event, it is important to assess any damage and protect property against further damage by covering broken windows and plugging holes in the roof.

It is also key to file claims as soon as possible and to keep any receipts for purchases made for immediate repairs and to then submit them to your insurer.

Alex Wright is a U.K.-based business journalist, who previously was deputy business editor at The Royal Gazette in Bermuda. You can reach him at [email protected]

More from Risk & Insurance

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Business Interruption Risk

Hidden Risks of Violence

The Las Vegas shooting and other tragedies increase demand for non-physical damage BI coverages. The market is growing, but do new products meet companies’ new needs?
By: | December 14, 2017 • 5 min read

Mass shootings in the United States and the emergence of new forms of terrorism in Europe are boosting demand for insurance against losses caused by business interruption when a policyholder suffers no direct property damage, according to insurers.

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But brokers say coverage for non-physical damage BI (NDBI), needs to evolve to better meet the emerging needs of corporate clients.

For years, manufacturing clients sought a more comprehensive range of NDBI coverages, especially due to the indirect effects of natural catastrophes such as the Thai floods that disrupted global supply chains in 2011.

More recently, however, hospitality and entertainment companies are expressing interest as they strive to adapt to realities such as the mass shootings in tourism hotspots Las Vegas and Orlando and terror attacks in such popular destinations as New York, Paris, Berlin, Barcelona and London.

In addition to loss of life and property, revenue loss is a real risk. Tragedies that cause a high number of fatalities can cause severe financial losses, especially for companies relying on tourism, as visitors shy away from crime scenes.

Precedents already exist. Paris received 1.5 million fewer visitors than expected in 2016, after the French capital was targeted by a series of deadly terror attacks the year before.

More recently, bookings declined in the immediate aftermath of a shooting at the Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino in Las Vegas that took the lives of 58 people on October 1: Bookings at the hotel have since recovered.

Joey Sylvester, national director of operations & planning, Public Sector, Gallagher

“The recent horrific mass shootings in Las Vegas, Nev., and in Sutherland Springs, Texas, raised awareness and concerns about similar events occurring in areas where the public congregates, such as entertainment venues like sporting events, concerts, restaurants, movie theaters, convention centers and more,” said Bob Nusslein, head of Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re CS.

“The second highest NDBI cover to natural catastrophes is terrorism, including active shooter and mass shootings.”

However, products available in the market do not always provide the protection companies would like. Active shooter coverages, for example, focus mostly on third-party liabilities that policyholders may face after a shooting.

Loss-of-attraction policies often define triggering events with a high degree of detail. These events may need to be characterized as a terrorist attack or act of war by authorities. In some cases, access to the venue needs to be officially cut off by police.

It follows that an attack by a 64-year old ex-accountant who shoots hundreds of people for no apparent reason — as was the case in the Mandalay Bay tragedy — isn’t likely to align with a typical policy trigger.

But insurers say they are trying to adapt to the evolving realities of both mass shootings and terrorism to meet the new needs expressed by clients.

“The active shooting coverage is drawing much interest in the U.S. market right now. In Europe, clients are increasingly inquiring about loss of attraction,” said Chris Parker, head of terrorism and political violence, Beazley.

“What we are doing at the moment is to try and cross these two kinds of products, so that a client can get coverage for the loss of attraction resulting from an active shooting event.”

Loss-of-attraction policies cover revenue loss derived from catastrophic events, and underwriters already offer alternatives that provide coverage, even when no property damage is involved.

To establish the reach of such a policy, buyers can define a trigger radius — a physical area defined in the policy. If a catastrophic event takes place within this radius, coverage will be triggered. This practice is sometimes called “cat in a box.”

Some products specify locations that, if hit by a catastrophic event, will result in lost revenue for the insured. For resorts or large entertainment complexes, for example, attacks on nearby airports could cause significant loss of revenue and could be covered by NDBI insurance.

Measuring losses is a challenge, and underwriters may demand steep retention levels. According to Parker, excess coverage may kick in after a 20 percent to 25 percent revenue drop.

Insurers will also want proof that the drop is related to the catastrophic event rather than economic downturn, seasonal variances or other factors.

“Capacity is very large for direct acts of terrorism but lower for indirect terrorism and violent acts because the exposure is far greater,” said Joey Sylvester, national director of operations & planning, Public Sector, Gallagher.

“Commercial businesses, public entities, religious and nonprofit organizations have various needs for this type of coverage, and the appetite is certainly trending upward.”

It is difficult to foresee which events will cause business disruption. As a result, according to Nusslein, companies generally prefer to purchase all-risk NDBI covers rather than named-perils coverage.

“The main reason is that, if they have coverage for four potential NDBI events and a fifth event occurs, the fifth event is not covered,” he said. “Insurers, new to NDBI covers, still prefer named-perils covers over all-risk cover.”

Current geopolitical tensions are also fueling buyers’ demands.

“Many companies want nuclear, biochemical, chemical and radiological exclusions removed from terrorism NDBI covers. While this is more difficult for insurers, it is not impossible,” Nusslein said.

“War risk NDBI cover is becoming more sought after due to political tensions between the U.S. and North Korea.”

“Many companies want nuclear, biochemical, chemical and radiological exclusions removed from terrorism NDBI covers. While this is more difficult for insurers, it is not impossible.” — Bob Nusslein, head of Innovative Risk Solutions Americas, Swiss Re CS

Natural catastrophes still constitute the largest share of perils underlying NDBI products.  Parametric indexes are increasingly employed to provide uncontroversial triggers to policies, said Duncan Ellis, U.S. property practice leader, Marsh.

These indexes range from rainfall levels and wind speed to the measured intensity of earthquakes. Interest in this kind of NDBI coverage expanded after the recent hurricane season.

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“The benefit of these products is that you do not have to go through the settlement process, which clients hate,” Ellis said.

NDBI policies are often bespoke, which is more common for very large insurance buyers.

“Usually, the market offers bespoke coverages for individual industries or clients, with very significant deductibles,” said Tim Cracknell, partner,  JLT Specialty.

NDBI cover can also help transfer regulatory and product recall risks. The life science sector is expressing interest in this kind of solution for cases where a supplier goes bankrupt or is shut down by a regulator, or a medication needs to be recalled due to perceived flaws in the manufacturing process.

Experts say that concerns still to be addressed are NDBI losses caused by cyber attacks and pandemics.

Capacity is an ongoing concern. According to Swiss Re CS, $50 million to $100 million, or even more, can be achieved through foundation capacity provided by a lead insurer, with syndicated capacity to other insurers and reinsurers, depending on the risk. &

Rodrigo Amaral is a freelance writer specializing in Latin American and European risk management and insurance markets. He can be reached at [email protected]