Earthquake Gap: Insurance Sales Falling As Risk Rises

August 19, 2014

While earthquake risks are rising in the U.S., fewer homeowners nationally say they have earthquake insurance, creating a potentially huge gap in coverage, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

That’s a problem, the I.I.I. said, with the potential cost of earthquakes climbing as more urban development takes place in areas with seismic activity, and cities continue to have older construction that doesn’t meet updated building code standards.

What’s more, the I.I.I. said, these trends become more urgent considering that standard coverage doesn’t automatically include earthquake-related damage.

“Standard homeowners, renters and business insurance policies do not cover damage from earthquakes,” Jeanne Salvatore, the I.I.I.’s senior vice president and chief communications officer, said in a statement. “Coverage is only available in the form of an endorsement or as a separate policy.”

The group’s concern revolves in part around new U.S. Geological Survey maps issued in July that indicate 42 states are at risk of an earthquake, with 16 at high risk. While the new maps again show the West Coast at highest risk, they also place the East Coast at risk for more harmful and larger earthquakes than previous maps have indicated, the I.I.I. said.

The I.I.I.’s other worry revolves around its 2014 survey, which found that 7 percent of homeowners nationally have earthquake coverage, down from 10 percent last year. In the west, where earthquakes are more common, the number has plunged from 22 percent in 2013 to 10 percent in 2014.

While the earthquake risk on the East Coast may be worse than previously believed, only 2 percent of Northeast homeowners had earthquake coverage in 2014, according to the survey.

The I.I.I., a nonprofit organization supported by the insurance industry, noted that earthquake policies can vary depending on the state and the state’s earthquake risks.

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