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Images compiled by Insurance Journal show the devastation to the Florida Panhandle caused by Hurricane Michael, which hit the region Oct. 10 as a Category 4 storm. Loss estimates range from $3 to $9 billion, according to catastrophe modelers, and some reports say the economic impact could be more than $25 billion.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/10/12/504423.htm

 

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Insurers, reinsurers and ILS investors could face significant losses from Hurricane Michael, a major Category 4 storm that began its assault on the Florida Panhandle Wednesday, according to a briefing from A.M. Best.

Best said although Florida’s insurance market-share leaders possess strong levels of risk-adjusted capitalization that should provide a buffer against Hurricane Michael losses, there will still be an impact for insurers writing in the state, according to a new A.M. Best briefing.

Furthermore, while nearly all A.M. Best-rated Florida property companies have substantial property catastrophe premium, some have strategically limited their exposures in the panhandle, and therefore are not significantly exposed to this hurricane.

“However, the question of how the state’s relatively new, Florida-specific insurers might withstand the impact of substantial insurable losses caused by Hurricane Michael remains,” Best noted. “In addition, depending on the storm’s intensity after making landfall, the potential for insurable losses could put some pressure on reinsurers. The actual impact of the hurricane will depend on a number of yet undetermined factors, but A.M. Best believes that most of the affected rated carriers have sufficient capital and appropriate reinsurance programs to withstand this event effectively.”

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Hurricane Michael, a Category 4 storm hitting Florida Wednesday with wind speeds of more than 150 miles per hour, is not just a major storm for the State of Florida, it is the strongest storm to hit the Florida Panhandle since hurricane records began, according to AIR Worldwide.

In an update released Wednesday from the catastrophe modeling firm, AIR said while there have been several other storms in recent history that have intensified more rapidly—Wilma increased from a 70 mph tropical storm to a 170 mph Category 5 in one day—what is unique about Michael is where it occurred: just prior to landfall, in an area that has never experienced a storm of this intensity.

“Not only is Michael potentially historic for where it will make landfall, it is also unique in terms of when,” AIR said. “If preliminary reports about Michael’s landfall near Mexico Beach, Fla., are correct, Michael will be recorded as the most intense hurricane on record to have struck land in the North Atlantic basin (which includes the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean) in the month of October.”

AIR noted that to date, the strongest hurricanes impacting the Florida Panhandle were all Category 3 storms. Among them, the 1917 unnamed storm #4, hurricanes Opal 1995, Ivan 2004 (an Alabama landfall that impacted Florida), and Dennis 2005. All four storms made landfall west of where Hurricane Michael struck.

The Florida Panhandle went nearly 80 years before experiencing another major hurricane. Opal in 1995 made landfall east of Pensacola with 115 mph winds. As with Hurricane Michael, Opal made use of the extremely warm water of the Gulf of Mexico, as well as favorable upper-level conditions, and rapidly intensified to a Category 4 hurricane before weakening and making landfall as a Category 3, AIR said.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/10/10/504018.htm

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Two recent decisions from the Florida Supreme Court that reversed rulings by the same District Court of Appeal will have a serious impact on the insurance industry.

The consequential rulings came on Sept. 20, 2018 in the cases of Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co., and Odom v. R.J. Reynolds Tobacco Co. in which the Florida Supreme Court’s used its power of discretionary review to reverse decisions by the Fourth District Court of Appeal.

Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co.

In Harvey v. GEICO General Insurance Co., No. SC17-85, So. 3d (Fla. Sept. 20, 2018), the Florida Supreme Court found there was support for a jury’s finding of bad faith and held that the Fourth District “misstated” the law. It’s 4-3 ruling reversed a Fourth District Court of Appeal decision siding with GEICO General Insurance Co. in a $9.2 million judgement against the insurer.

The case stemmed from an automobile accident that caused a man’s death by the plaintiff’s vehicle, which was covered under an insurance liability policy of $100,000 through GEICO. The auto insurer tried to settle the matter by providing the man’s estate with a check for the full policy limits. The estate argued that GEICO failed to provide a statement from the insured plaintiff, which might have indicated the plaintiff’s assets.

The estate returned the check and filed a wrongful death suit against the plaintiff, and a jury awarded the estate $8.47 million.

The plaintiff then filed a bad faith claim against GEICO, claiming that the attorney for the estate would have advised the estate to settle for the insurance policy limits had he known that the plaintiff would not have sufficient assets to cover a potential jury award. The jury found that GEICO had acted in bad faith and awarded the plaintiff a judgment of $9.2 million. GEICO appealed and the Fourth District Court of Appeals reversed the award, concluding that the plaintiff had not provided sufficient evidence of bad faith because even if GEICO acted deficiently, it did not cause the excess judgment against the plaintiff.

In the Sept. 20 majority opinion to reverse Fourth DCA’s decision by the Florida Supreme Court, Justice Quince, joined by Justices Pariente, Lewis, and Labarga, found there was competent, substantial evidence to support the jury’s finding of bad faith, and held that the Fourth District “misstated” the law.

Justices Canady and Polston dissented in separate opinions, joined by Justice Lawson, that the Florida Supreme Court lacked jurisdiction to hear the case because the Fourth District Court’s opinion did not expressly and directly conflict with prior Florida Supreme Court decisions.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/10/02/502957.htm

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Insurance industry losses from Hurricane Florence, which hit the Carolinas mid-September as a Category 1 storm, will be manageable and not have a severe impact on insurers, according to experts.

As the storm turned out to be less of a wind event and with flood excluded on most homeowners policies, it is expected insurers will not experience the significant losses that were initially feared. However uninsured flood losses could cost nearly $20 billion, by some estimates.

“All indications we have seen is [Florence] was more of a flood event than wind issue,” said Brian O’Neill, exectuive vice president for JLT Re’s National Catastrophe Practice.

According to Fitch Ratings, wind speeds from Florence diminished as the storm approached the U.S. coast and Florence was downgraded to a Category 1 hurricane before making landfall in North Carolina on Sept. 14. Fitch said the level of wind related damage to property is expected to be modest as a result of the significant decline in wind speeds, limiting losses to primary property insurance writers.

Catastrophe modeling firm AIR Worldwide estimated that industry insured losses from Florence’s winds and storm surge will range from $1.7 billion to $4.6 billion. Losses include downed trees that caused damages to homes and automobiles, downed utility poles, and shingle loss with isolated cases of more extensive roof damage.

Karen Clark & Co. said it expects insured losses from Hurricane Florence will reach $2.5 billion. That estimate includes insured losses to residential, commercial and industrial properties.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/09/25/502196.htm

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In a significant turn of events in the insurance industry’s fight against Florida assignment of benefits (AOB) abuse, Florida’s Fourth District Court of Appeal (DCA) has ruled that an insurer’s anti-assignment provision was not prohibited.

But the battle isn’t over yet as it is likely this decision will be brought to the Florida Supreme Court.

The Fourth DCA ruling came on Sept. 5, 2018 in the case of Restoration of Port St. Lucie, a/a/o, John and Liza Squitieri v. Ark Royal Insurance Co., in which the court disagreed with a decision by the Fifth DCA in Dec. 2017 prohibiting any such conditions.

The Fourth DCA found that a homeowner’s insurance policy may contain a restriction requiring the consent of all of the insured and the mortgagees before a valid assignment of benefits. The ruling could allow insurers to seek to use these restrictions to stem the rise of fake or exaggerated claims and allow parties with valid, vested interests in a property to have a say in the assignment. The ruling could be a turning point in stemming abuse of AOBs that is leading to increased homeowner insurance rates statewide.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/09/20/501785.htm

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Flood insurance was far from Stephanie Walker’s mind in 2015 when she moved her family into a home in Fayetteville in central North Carolina, nearly 200 miles (320 km) from the coast.

The next year, a creek at the end of her street swelled during Hurricane Matthew, sending several feet of water into her living room. Without flood insurance, the family spent $70,000 on repairs. The U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency covered $25,000 but the family had to borrow the rest for her home.

The houses on the street were built in 2005. Matthew was the first storm that caused flooding, but the fear of another flood is causing greater anxiety.

“This street should be demolished. Houses never should have been put here,” said Walker, 41.

After Matthew, the family bought flood insurance and felt protected when the waters touched their doorstep again during Hurricane Florence.

But they are a rarity. Only about 1 percent of homes in North Carolina’s inland counties are insured through the national floodinsurance program, according to federal data, compared with 25 percent to 50 percent of homeowners on the coast.

FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program supplements regular homeowner policies, which do not generally include flood damage. For homeowners who do not buy the flood insurance, federal aid generally only partially covers repairs.

The average national flood insurance policy, which tops out at $250,000, costs about $700 per year, but varies depending on the elevation of the home, according to FEMA. Homeowners can buy supplemental insurance policies for more valuable homes through private insurers.

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https://www.insurancejournal.com/news/southeast/2018/09/19/501688.htm