Disaster Recovery

Irma’s Business Interruption Claims

Contingent business interruption claims from Hurricane Irma could take years to resolve.
By: | September 20, 2017 • 4 min read

Hurricane Irma tore through Florida and the Caribbean destroying tens of thousands of homes and businesses, forcing people to be evacuated, and causing an estimated $25-35 billion in damage. On a commercial scale, however, the industries hardest hit were hospitality, retail and construction, as well as health care and manufacturing, say experts.

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But worse than the initial physical damage caused to their properties are the mounting business interruption (BI) and contingent business interruption (CBI) claims from companies forced to shut down because of the storm. At one point it was estimated that 62 percent of residents had lost power, exacerbating the problem and leading to issues such as mold.

And with further storms approaching, notably Hurricane Maria, there’s the added challenge for claims adjustors of scrambling to try and differentiate the damage caused by each event, particularly in the more inaccessible areas. That’s on top of trying to reallocate resources from other storm affected parts of the country including Texas.

“Hospitality clients and real estate clients including commercial condominiums and apartments have had some significant claims,” said Marsh’s U.S. property practice leader Duncan Ellis. “Then there are the school boards and retailers, from strip malls to individual big box stalls, a lot of whom have suffered significant damage.”

Estimating overall insured losses in the “tens of billions,” Lockton’s national property claims director Sheri Wilson expects tourism and hospitals, nursing homes and assisted care facilities to be the worst affected in terms of commercial losses.

Duncan Ellis, U.S. Property Practice Leader, Marsh

“Florida’s tourism industry is going to take a battering, not just because of the short-term damage, but with the high season just around the corner they are not going to be able to recover in time because of the lack of materials and manpower,” said Wilson.

“The hospitals are a bit unique in terms of business interruption because they have so many different sources of revenue, so it takes time for that to work itself through the claims process and we won’t know the true financial impact until later this year.”

Willis Towers Watson’s head of property broking Gary Marchitello also expects Irma to result in “significant business interruption losses” arising from extensive power outages, taking months to resolve.

“These business interruption claims could take months to calculate,” he said. “Even if a specific property is not damaged, the insured’s property may face other obstacles to its operations, for example it could be impaired by civil authority and/or it may not have a means of ingress/egress due to nearby road closures.”

Beazley’s head of property Mark Bernacki added: “A key part of the loss escalation will be what’s covered under the extended period of indemnity. This allows the insured, post the normal period of indemnity, to pick up additional business interruption loss until the business can resume full operations.”

Hospitality clients and real estate clients including commercial condominiums and apartments have had some significant claims. —Duncan Ellis, Marsh’s U.S. property practice leader.

While Irma has forced many businesses to shut, Kevin Kavanagh, a partner at Wilson Elser LLP, believes that the longer-term implications are much worse, including lost jobs.

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“How long can you be shut down and not be bringing in any money or paying your employees?” he said. “It’s just devastating for smaller businesses, a lot of whom don’t have contingent business interruption and barely enough business interruption to cover their losses.”

Given the scale of the storm, it could also have a knock-on effect on the supply chain for months or even years down the line, said EY’s Americas Insurance & Federal Claims Services Leader Allen Melton.

“Take for example a manufacturing facility that had to close before the hurricane, came back and discovered they have little physical damage to their facility, but they have suppliers that produce key components or raw materials that were either severely impacted or completely destroyed,” he said.

“If they have coverage for contingent business interruption in their policy, they could have a fairly complex claim that could continue well into next year.”

Another issue is mold. With its humid environment, Florida is susceptible to mold and other diseases like Legionella, exacerbated by the power outages resulting from Irma.

Sheri Wilson, national proprerty claims director, Lockton

Veronica Benzinger, chief broking officer at Aon Risk Solutions Environmental Services Group, said that mold has the potential to grow within 36 hours of water intrusion of a building. While many policies cover water intrusion, she said that they often don’t extend to mold.

“The chances are that you are also dealing with potentially contaminated water full of chemicals, petrochemicals or biologics including sewage and so the process may become more extensive that just simply drying out, replacing wall board or pumping water out of your property,” she said.

“The protracted period of no power will also add to the severity, potentially, of the loss, which combined with the humid environment and organic material to feed on, will only encourage mold to grow.”

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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Risk Management

The Profession

Maila Aganon is the personification of the American dream. The vice president of treasury and risk for Caesars Entertainment Corp. immigrated from the Philippines and worked her way to the top.
By: | October 12, 2017 • 4 min read


R&I: What was your first job?

I actually had three first jobs at the same time at the age of 16. I worked as a cashier in a fast-food restaurant, a bank teller and a debt collector for an immigration law firm.

R&I: Who is your mentor and why?

I have a few. The first one would be the first risk manager I reported to. He taught me the technical part of the job, risk financing, captives and insurance. I am also privileged to be mentored by Lori Goltermann (CEO of U.S. Retail for Aon Risk Solutions).  From her I learned to be resilient and optimize life/work balance. Then of course I also have a circle of ladies at work who I lean in to!

R&I: How did you come to work in this industry?

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I was once a bank teller and had a client who was an insurance agent. He would come in every day to make deposits. One day, he offered me a job. He said, “How would you like to have your own desk, your own phone and your own computer?” And I said, “When do I start?” I worked for this personal lines insurance company for six years.

R&I: Did you take to it immediately?

Yes, I did sales, claims and insurance accounting. I left for a couple years and that is when AAA came calling, which was my first introduction to risk management. I didn’t know there was such a thing as commercial insurance. They called me and the pitch was “how would you like to run a captive insurance company?”

R&I: What have you accomplished that you are proudest of?

It is not so much the job but I say that I am the true product of the American Dream. I came to the U.S. when I was 16. I worked three jobs because I didn’t want to go to high school (She’d already graduated high school in the Philippines.) I spoke very little English, and due to hard work, grit and a great smile I’m now here working with all of you!

R&I: What is your favorite book or movie?

In movies, it is a toss-up between Gone with the Wind and Big Daddy.

R&I: What is your favorite drink?

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I like anything sweet. If you liquify a dessert that’s my perfect drink.

R&I: What is the most unusual/interesting place you have ever visited?

This is easy because I just got back from Barcelona on a side trip. I visited the Montserrat Monastery, which is a thousand-year old monastery. It was raining and foggy. I hiked for three hours and I didn’t see a single soul. It was a very peaceful place.

R&I: What is the riskiest activity you ever engaged in?

This is going back to working at a fast food chain when I was young. I worked in a very undesirable location in San Francisco. At 16 I used to negotiate with gang members so they wouldn’t rob me during my shift. I had to give them chicken so they wouldn’t rob me.

Maila Aganon, VP, Treasury and Risk, Caesars Entertainment Corp.

R&I: If the world has a modern hero, who is it and why? 

I can’t say me. They have to be my kids Kyle and Hailey. They can make me laugh and cry within a half-minute of each other. Kyle is 10, a perfect Mama’s boy. Hailey is seven going on 18.

R&I: What about this work do you find the most fulfilling or rewarding?

I think the most fulfilling part is how you build relationships with people and then after a while they become your friends.

R&I: What is the risk management community doing right?

Risk managers do a great job of networking. They are number one. Which is not a surprise because the pillar of our work is building a relationship with underwriters, clients and brokers.

R&I: What could the risk management community be doing a better job of? 

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I am experiencing that right now; talent.  We need to a better job in attracting and retaining talent. Nobody knows about what we do. You tell someone ‘I’m as risk manager’ and they give you a blank look. What does that mean?

We’re great marketers and we should use this skill set in attracting talent. We should engage our universities, our communities, even our yoga groups and talk to them about the exciting world of risk. It is an exciting career because there is nothing like it.

R&I: What emerging commercial risk most concerns you? 

It would have to be the increasing cyber risk and the interdependency of systems.

R&I: What does your family think you do? 

I took my seven year old daughter once to an insurance event that had live music, dancing and drinks. She thinks that whenever I go to an insurance meeting, I’m heading to a party.




Katie Siegel is an associate editor at Risk & Insurance®. She can be reached at [email protected]