Insurers Moving Quickly in Response to Violent Midwest Weather

May 24, 2011

Auto, home and business insurers have launched a broad response to the recent tornadoes that caused severe loss of life and extensive property damage in Joplin, Mo., Reading, Kan., and Minneapolis, Minn., insurance industry sources say.

More than 68 tornadoes were reported across the Midwest over the weekend.

Jim Whittle, assistant general counsel and chief claims counsel of the American Insurance Association (AIA), said property and casualty insurers are already actively engaged in helping policyholders recover from these natural catastrophes.

The mobilization comes only weeks after insurers traveled to multiple states, most notably Alabama, which were struck by tornadoes in late April, the Insurance Information Institute said.

“The spring of 2011’s tornadoes have been some of the costliest, and deadliest, in U.S. history,” Dr. Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the I.I.I.

The U.S. generally sees about 1,200 tornadoes in any given year but a preliminary count indicates 1,076 have already touched down nationwide as of May 17, 2011, with 875 of them occurring in April 2011, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) National Weather Service reported.

This is already the second deadliest year ever for tornado-related deaths in the U.S. – with about 450 fatalities so far, according to the I.I.I.

Tornadoes killed 747 people in the U.S. in 1925. Tornadoes caused $97.8 billion in insured losses in the U.S. between 1990 and 2009, making these weather events second only to hurricanes ($152.4 billion) over this same time period as the costliest natural disasters.

In the past three years (2008-2010), severe thunderstorms, and the tornadoes they spawned, have caused about $30 billion of that $97.8 billion total, the I.I.I. said.

The April 22-28, 2011 southern state tornadoes caused anywhere from $3.7 billion to $5.5 billion in insured losses, AIR Worldwide, a risk modeling firm, estimated. Risk Management Solutions, another risk modeling company, said the total insured loss figure could climb as high as $6 billion, with the damage so severe in Alabama that the tornadoes could surpass 2004’s Hurricane Ivan as the costliest natural disaster in that state’s history.

In response to the most recent round of storms, insurance companies “are already at work reaching out to policyholders,” AIA’s Whittle said. “Our members are actively communicating with policyholders, even using Facebook and Twitter to post information that will help their customers quickly file claims.”

Policyholders are urged to immediately contact their insurer to report damage and begin the claim filing process.

A list of AIA member companies’ claims hotline numbers may be accessed on AIA’s Web site at: http://www.aiadc.org/AIAdotNET/docHandler.aspx?DocID=285568.

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