Insurers’ 2003 Catastrophe Losses Total $12.8 Billion; ISO Says Q4 Losses Highest in Decade

January 15, 2004

U.S. property/casualty insurers paid $12.8 billion to homeowners and businesses for insured property losses from 21 catastrophic events last year, according to current estimates by Insurance Services Office, Inc.’s (ISO) Property Claim Services (PCS) unit. Policyholders filed more than 2.6 million personal and commercial property and automobile claims for the year.

Though 2003 was the third costliest year for catastrophe losses in the past 10 years — exceeded only by the $28.1 billion loss in 2001 and $17 billion in 1994 — the fourth quarter’s $2.64 billion loss from five events was the highest during the same period. The quarter’s high losses were driven by two California wildfires that caused insured losses of $2.3 billion, in addition to $610 million in losses from three wind and thunderstorm events in 27 states.

Catastrophic events during the year affected 39 states. California suffered the highest insured losses at $2.1 billion, followed by Texas at $1.5 billion, Tennessee at $1.2 billion, Oklahoma at $1.1 billion and Virginia at $1 billion.

ISO’s PCS unit defines a catastrophe as an event within a particular territory that causes $25 million or more in insured property losses and affects a significant number of property and casualty policyholders and insurers.

PCS estimates represent anticipated insured loss on an industrywide basis arising from catastrophes, reflecting the total net insurance payment for personal and commercial property lines of insurance covering fixed property, personal property, vehicles, boats, related property items and business-interruption losses. The estimates exclude losses insured by the National Flood Insurance Program and all loss-adjustment expenses.

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