HAMILTON, Bermuda, Monday October 17, 2016 – The insurance bill for Hurricane Nicole could be less than that for the double whammy of Fay and Gonzalo two years ago.
But island insurers said it was still early days for estimating total costs — and that the Category 3 Nicole could lead to an increase in water damage claims compared to the smaller storms which hit in quick succession in 2014.
Michael Freisenbruch, president of insurance firm Freisenbruch-Meyer, said: “It could have been a lot worse. As a very guarded opinion, thus far I’m more positive now than I was prior to the storm.
“While we are very fortunate that the damage was not worse, early total reserves for our firm are not insignificant. In terms of claims, it’s not as busy as Gonzalo so far, but again, it’s early days.
“It’s really contingent on an insured’s ability to inspect properties fully and sometimes on the initial inspection, things look fine, but there is some damage that appears shortly afterwards. We take the view that we need several days before we get a real handle on volume of claims and costs,” he said.
The firm had 85 claims by Saturday and it has brought in an overseas loss adjuster to assist.
The total 2014 bill for the island was estimated by analysts AM Best to be between $200 million and $400 million, while the firm added that, because domestic insurers were “heavily insured with managed retentions, it is anticipated that the brunt of the storm’s financial impact will once again fall on reinsurers.”
Hurricane Fabian, which hit in 2003 and was also a Category 3, killed four people and caused estimated insured losses of $300 million.
Andy Pell, assistant vice-president of property and casualty at Argus, said there was “an absence of damage you would expect from a Category 3 storm.”
He added: “Those who have suffered damage, it’s very sad and I wouldn’t want to downplay the suffering they are going through, but it’s a less severe damage than we would expect.”
Pell said that, so far, Argus had seen a slower stream of claims than for Fay and Gonzalo, which insurers treated as one storm as they were only a week apart.
But he added that some people would still be assessing property damage and getting estimates, while commercial owners may need more time to work out damage to inventory.
Juanita Coley, claims manager at Colonial, said very few claims had come in so far.
“It’s very early still so we do expect more as people inspect their property and have time to contact us. But so far we have received only 22 claims. Thirteen are for personal property — buildings and contents,” she said, adding that the firm had handled six claims for cars and three for commercial buildings and no marine claims.
“But we did receive a lot of warning before this storm so boat owners had sufficient time to get their boats out of the water. As a comparison, we had over 400 claims come into our Bahamas office after they suffered a direct hit for Category 4 Hurricane Matthew last week.
“This variance in claims is a great testament to the high standards of construction in Bermuda. We’ve seen many comments on social media praising the quality our Bermuda-built homes. And we have to say we agree. However, for those who have sustained damage, they will be more than pleased that the majority of the expense incurred will be covered by their insurance and not have to come out of their own pockets.”
Earlier, John Wight, CEO of BF&M, said the damage from Nicole was light compared to the similar Fabian, which hit the island in 2003 and is thought to be Bermuda’s most costly hurricane in terms of insured losses.
He added that residents may have learnt from past storms and taken extra care to secure and protect their properties.
And he also cited Bermudian building codes and the strength of structures as an “undeniable factor” in the island’s ability to withstand severe weather conditions. (Royal Gazette)