NU Online News Service, March 14, 1:31 p.m. EST
While the industry tries to get a handle on losses coming from Japan in the wake of the recent earthquake, insurers in California can expect to see business interruption and other claims from damage caused to marinas by tsunami waves that hit the coast.
Pete Moraga, a spokesman for the Insurance Information Network of California (IINC), said information on the extent of the damage to boats and marinas in both Northern and Southern California is unclear, as adjusters have not yet had time to make evaluations. He said he has heard different damage estimates, as high as $50 million, but those estimates are unconfirmed.
From the available videos that showed waves sweeping away boats and damaging marinas, Mr. Moraga said the damage doesn’t seem like it would cause major losses for insurers, “but it’s tough to tell before damage estimates come in.”
Even if early estimates are made, Mr. Moraga said the reliable numbers will not come out until adjusters conduct their evaluations. He noted that most early estimates that come out after wildfires in California are inaccurate. “There’s so much you don’t see” until the adjusters get in there, he said.
As for the types of coverages likely to be triggered, Mr. Moraga mentioned boat insurance, for those owners who took out coverage on their vessels. Videos showed capsized boats, but Mr. Moraga said boats that initially appeared to escape the worst of the event could also be damaged after being knocked around against the docks.
Other losses will come from business interruption claims, Mr. Moraga said. Claimants must meet a physical damage threshold and a time threshold of 48 hours, Mr. Moraga said. He noted that both thresholds will likely be met for businesses in both Northern and Southern California.
Liability claims could also be filed, he said, stemming from lawsuits from boat owners who did not have insurance and claim that the marina did not properly care for their vessels.
Mr. Moraga said adjusters should be able to get to sites starting today, and the scope of losses in California will take shape thereafter.
As a result of the damage sustained in the state, Governor Jerry Brown declared a state of emergency in Del Norte, Humboldt, San Mateo and Santa Cruz counties.
Meanwhile, the California Earthquake Authority (CEA) released a statement pointing out the importance of earthquake insurance in the wake of the 9.0 magnitude quake in Japan. “In California, we have two-thirds of our nation’s earthquake risk and most of us live within 30 miles of a major fault,” said Glenn Pomeroy, chief executive officer of CEA. “But just 12 percent of our homes with fire insruance also have earthquake coverage.”
He added, “The bottom line is that it’s very hard to imagine how a community would recover from a massive quake when nearly all of the damaged homes are completely uninsured for the loss.”
He pointed to Christchurch, New Zealand as an area where adequate coverage will lead to recovery. “In New Zealand, almost everyone has earthquake insurance on their home,” Mr. Pomeroy said. “Because of this, Christchurch will recover despite thousands of houses being destroyed in recent months.”