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State Farm Tallies $644M In Sandy Claims

By Karina Gonzalez, The Pantagraph, Bloomington, Ill.
McClatchy-Tribune Information Services

Jan. 16--State Farm, Country still receiving Superstorm Sandy claims

BLOOMINGTON -- Months after Hurricane Sandy slammed into the East Coast, Bloomington-based insurers are still working to clear the debris.

State Farm has paid $644 million in Sandy claims so far, including $469 million for home insurance claims and $175 million for auto claims. Spokeswoman Holly Anderson declined to say how many of the total 132,000 claims the company received in the days and weeks after the storm have been resolved.

Michael Barry, spokesman for the Insurance Information Institute, based in New York, said claims payout tallies are expected to continue to climb.

"It's going to take months to figure out what the final numbers are because some of the claims have not yet been closed out," Barry said Tuesday.

Industry-wide, losses are expected to reach $25 billion, according to estimates released earlier this month by Munich Re, an international insurer. When Sandy made landfall in New Jersey in October, it became the worst storm to hit the northeastern portion of the country since 1938.

Country Financial estimated its Sandy losses to be between $24 million and $25 million, said spokeswoman Chris Anderson.

"We have inspected all claims and closed 88 percent of them," she said of 2,400 claims the company received through its East Coast affiliate MiddleOak Insurance.

Sandy could become the third costliest storm in U.S. history, after Katrina in 2005 and Andrew in 1992, according to Robert Hartwig, president and chief economist at the III. Catastrophic losses in the insurance industry during 2012 had been down 50 percent from 2011 when Sandy struck the East Coast in the fall.

Holly Anderson declined to say how much of a loss State Farm expects from Sandy. The insurance giant holds the top rank for homeowner insurers in New York with 15.5 percent of market share. The company is the third-largest auto insurer in New York, according to III data.

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In 2012 State Farm was still recovering from the aftermath of a barrage of storms, tornadoes and other natural disasters in 2011 that resulted in $6.7 billion in claims. By comparison, when Hurricane Katrina and two other storms struck in 2005, claims totaled $10.9 billion.

Country Financial had its costliest storm in company history 2012, but it wasn't Sandy, said Chris Anderson. A hailstorm that struck parts of Southern Illinois and St. Louis in April resulted in the biggest losses for the company.

"The widespread hailstorm generated more than 13,000 claims with estimated losses of more than $80 million," said Chris Anderson.


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