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Oklahoma's Hail And Wind Damage Could Cost Insurers $400M

"From the standpoint of comparing this to the hail event we had a couple of years ago in the spring that was just a massive hailstorm, it is not even close to the magnitude of that event,"....

By Don Mecoy, The Oklahoman, Oklahoma City
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

June 05--Last week's storms caused an estimated $400 million in insured property damage, an insurance industry group estimated, although a major provider said Monday that the hail and high winds were not a catastrophic event.

"From the standpoint of comparing this to the hail event we had a couple of years ago in the spring that was just a massive hailstorm, it is not even close to the magnitude of that event," said John Wiscaver, vice president of public affairs for Oklahoma Farm Bureau Insurance.

Wiscaver said media coverage of last week's hailstorms may have left the impression they caused heavy property damage.

"We've certainly had some damaging hail that's been in isolated areas throughout the state," he said. "But we've not seen nearly the level of claims anticipated based on the level of (media) coverage and level of reported hail that hit in some of the areas."

The Texas-based Southwestern Insurance Information Service issued the $400 million preliminary estimate of insured losses based on surveys of its members, which include Oklahoma's largest insurance providers, said Sandra Helin, president of the industry group.

"That's preliminary," Helin said. "The numbers change. For one company, it doubled between Thursday and Friday."

Claims for damage caused by the storm are widespread, Helin said. The $400 million estimate doesn't include commercial losses or businesses that lost income due to storm damage, she said.

Group 1 Automotive Inc., a publicly traded company that operates eight Oklahoma City area car dealerships, reported last week that it expected to incur after-tax charges related to its insurance deductibles in the range of $1.8 million to $2.3 million because of damage to its vehicles at seven of its local stores.

While it may take months for all the claims to be filed, Helin said Southwestern Insurance Information Service damage estimates have been fairly accurate.

Hailstorms typically generate about three to four times the number of vehicle claims as homeowners' claims, she said. However, homeowners' claims, which often involve roof replacement, tend to cost three to four times as much as vehicle claims, she said.

Oklahomans pay among the nation's highest average premium for personal property insurance, mainly because of damage from high winds and hail. Insurance companies evaluate losses in a geographic area over a number of years to determine premiums.

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Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak last week declared an emergency after the storm to allow out-of-state adjusters to handle claims more quickly.

"By any measure, this was a big storm," Doak said Monday. "The response from the industry has been strong and organized. We've talked to many agents and adjusters who have their hands full processing claims."

No consumer problems had been reported to the Oklahoma Insurance Department as of Monday.

Wiscaver said agents from Oklahoma Farm Bureau, which has customers in every county, are working to contact all customers with claims.

"We're hard at it, and we've already made contact with the vast majority of customers who turned claims in," he said. "There's a difference between damaging hail and hail. So people are assessing if they have a situation where there's damage."

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(c)2012 The Oklahoman

Visit The Oklahoman at www.newsok.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services

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