ISO: Insurers to Pay $56.8B in 2005 Catastrophe Claims

January 27, 2006

U.S. property/casualty insurers are expected to pay homeowners and businesses a record $56.8 billion for 2005 insured property losses from 24 catastrophic events — more than twice the prior record set in 2004, when insurers paid $27.3 billion in catastrophe claims, according to preliminary estimates by ISO’s Property Claim Services (PCS) unit.

Five hurricanes — Katrina, Wilma, Rita, Ophelia and Dennis — accounted for $52.7 billion, nearly 93 percent of last year’s insured losses affecting nine states.

Policyholders in 39 states filed more than 4 million personal and commercial property and automobile claims. Five states accounted for more than 80 percent of those claims and almost half the dollar loss. They are:

* Louisiana, $27.2 billion
* Mississippi, $12.2 billion
* Florida, $9.9 billion
* Texas, $2.9 billion
* Alabama, $1.5 billion

Catastrophic activity in the fourth quarter was also unusual with Tropical Storm Zeta developing in late December, well beyond the official end of hurricane season, Nov. 30. Five fourth-quarter events triggered $8.9 billion in insured losses — the costliest fourth quarter on record in the past 10 years. Wilma’s $8.4 billion loss produced the lion’s share of the quarter’s steep tally.

Policyholders filed an estimated 1.1 million claims for the quarter. The previous record for fourth-quarter catastrophe losses in the past decade was $2.6 billion in 2003, driven by two Southern California wildland fires.

Estimated damage from catastrophes has doubled every year since 2002, while claim volume has increased steadily since 2000. Twelve catastrophes on the PCS’s “Top 20” list occurred during the past five-year period. A dramatic increase in the number and value of exposed properties in high-risk areas is a major contributor to increasing catastrophe losses.

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