Calif. Storm Claims Mount

As the sun came out and the floodwaters receded, efforts to repair and rebuild began in Los Angeles last week in the wake of the most recent rainstorms to hit the city, prompting over 1,500 claims to be filed with insurers, with many more expected this week.

Local news outlets have shown numerous photos and offered estimates of the damage caused by the storms, but experts say that actual loss estimates have not yet been tabulated.

Peter Moraga of the Insurance Information Network of California said that the IINC had issued a data call to its membership, which represents 70 percent of the insurance market in the state, and that loss estimates could be available this week.

Although he had seen reports of the extent of the damage, Mr. Moraga said he had “no idea” where those figures came from. Additionally, he said that much of those figures could be connected to damages not covered by homeowners or auto insurance, such as street damage or flooding covered by the National Flood Insurance Program.

A representative for the California Department of Insurance also acknowledged that loss data from these most recent storms has yet to be collected.

Sam Sorich, president of the Association of California Insurance Companiesthe Western affiliate of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of Americaalso said he was “not aware of any dollar estimate” for losses from last week’s storms, adding that he expected one to be available this week.

While the financial impact of the storms has not yet been calculated, Mr. Moraga said that as of Feb. 23, 1,512 damage claims had been filed.

Los Angeles has been buffeted in the early months of 2005, with some 22,000 claims for storm damages filed in January alone. The 1,512 new claims, Mr. Moraga said, are separate from those January losses and are likely only the first wave of claims in response to last week’s storms. “Obviously, these are only the first numbers,” he said. “We anticipate that it’s going to rise.”

The 22,000 claims filed in January, Mr. Sorich noted, are expected to account for roughly $125 million in damages.

In the meantime, work has begun to process what claims have been made, according to Nicole Mahrt, a representative for the American Insurance Association in Sacramento. “Insurers are doing everything they can,” she said, sending adjusters to damaged properties to begin the claims process as quickly as possible.

Numerous homes have already been declared unsafe due to flooding and mudslides in Los Angeles, and Mayor Jim Hahn has called upon Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to seek federal assistance for the city.

“I am asking for the governors support in urging President Bush to declare a new state of emergency,” said Mayor Hahn. “The sooner we can declare a new state of emergency, the sooner we can get the much-needed relief to the residents affected by the storm.”

Reproduced from National Underwriter Edition, February 25, 2005. Copyright 2005 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.