Winter Weather Damages Double In 2014 From Previous Year, I.I.I. Study Reveals

With brutal winter storms affecting much of the northeastern United States last week, it’s once again important to talk about the effects of winter storms when it comes to damages and insurance. In a recent release from the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) it was revealed that the percentage of winter-caused insured catastrophe losses more than doubled in 2014, following a harsh winter and a quiet hurricane season.

“Severe winter weather caused 15 percent of all insured auto, home and business catastrophe losses in the United States in 2014,” said Dr. Robert Hartwig, I.I.I. president and economist. “Losses from snow, ice, freezing and related causes totaled $2.3 billion last year, after averaging about $1.2 billion annually over the previous 20 years. Insured losses caused by winter weather were $1.9 billion in 2013 so the last two years have been well above what the insurance industry has traditionally seen from this type of severe weather,” Hartwig added.

Much of the damage was caused by the so-called “Polar Vortex event,” which occurred from January 5-8, 2014. This event caused freezing, wind, ice and snow in multiple states and generated nearly $1.7 billion of the entire winter’s $2.3 billion in insured losses, according to ISO’s Property Claim Services (PCS), a unit of Verisk Analytics.

In the 19-year period from 1994 to 2013, winter storm claims “accounted for 6.7 percent of all insured U.S. catastrophe losses, placing them third behind hurricanes and tropical storms (40 percent) and tornadoes (36 percent) as the costliest natural disasters,” the PCS report added. That changed in 2014 as winter storms ranked second thanks to a quieter than usual hurricane season.

“Damage caused by slippery road conditions are covered under standard auto insurance policies while standard homeowners policies cover damage caused by wind, snow, severe cold and freezing rain,” Dr. Hartwig stated. “Policyholders who need to file a claim should contact their insurance professional as soon as possible.”

Winter weather effects are having an impact on the workplace as well, the I.I.I. release stated, adding that “winter-related slip-and-fall claims at Midwestern workplaces doubled in 2013-2014 from the previous year” and that such accidents “represent 29 percent of all workers compensation claims.”

It’s important that insurance customers be prepared for further winter storms in the days and weeks ahead. They should consider taking the following precautions prior to an event.

Stock up on non-perishable food items in the event of a power outage. This would include canned goods and non-refrigerated foods with a longer shelf life.

Put together a “winter kit” for road travel so that if there is a breakdown or they’re stranded due to winter weather, they have the tools essential for survival. The state of Wisconsin recommends the following: a shovel, windshield scraper and small broom, flashlight with extra batteries, battery powered radio, water, snack food including energy bars, raisins and mini candy bars, matches and small candles, extra hats/socks/mittens, first aid kit with pocket knife, necessary medications, blankets or sleeping bag, tow chain or rope, road salt, sand, or cat litter for traction, booster cables, emergency flares and reflectors, fluorescent distress flag and whistle to attract attention, and a cell phone adapter to plug into the car lighter.


In Summary

It’s uncertain whether the Polar Vortex event will become a yearly pattern, but for now, winter weather is striking hard and fast. It’s important that customers be made aware of the growing threat including the areas where claims are most likely to be filed. Feel free to pass along the above data to your insurance leads or customers, and stay warm out there!

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