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Florida insurers to weather effects of Michael, analysts say

Monday, October 15, 2018

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FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida (AP) — Florida's disjointed property insurance system that relies almost exclusively on small and mid-size companies will take a multi-billion-dollar loss from Hurricane Michael, but has sufficient reserves and backups that providers should be able to pay claims without problems, analysts say.

Major national players like State Farm, Allstate and Liberty Mutual write few if any homeowners policies in Florida because of the high risk of hurricane losses, leaving the market to smaller companies and the state-created insurer of last resort, Citizens Property.

Boston-based Karen Clark & Company, which models catastrophes, estimates Florida private insurers will pay $6 billion in claims for wind and storm surge damage to residential, commercial and industrial properties and vehicles. The estimate doesn't include losses covered by the National Flood Insurance Program, which has about 60,000 policies in the hardest-hit Florida counties. The programme had no immediate estimate on its losses.

Analysts say that, despite their smaller size, Florida insurers should be able to cover their Michael losses through reinsurance — policies insurance companies purchase from global companies like Lloyd's of London to cover catastrophic losses. Most of the state's damage from Wednesday's Category four storm is in the sparsely populated Panhandle, lessening the financial blow.

Florida insurers “are built to be able to withstand these types of storms that are expected to happen every 10 to 15 years,” according to Brian C Schneider, a senior director at the analytics firm Fitch Ratings. The company said the reinsurance programmes performed well after Hurricane Irma last year, which caused about $50 billion in damages in Florida.

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