III’s President on Wild Weather and the Car Insurance Industry

Just as meteorologists christened another of the season’s storms brewing in the Atlantic—now called Tropical Storm Dorian—Online Auto Insurance News (OAIN) interviewed Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute (III), about the insurance industry’s response to wild weather this year and last year, along with a number of other topics.

Hartwig’s interview was conducted via satellite as part of a media tour timed to help consumers prepare for hurricane conditions before the season peaks later this year. Watch the video below:

Highlights from the interview:

Superstorm Sandy

Reflecting on last year’s biggest weather event, Hartwig called Superstorm Sandy “really one of the most expensive events in insurance history for the automobile industry in terms of catastrophe losses.”

“Sandy destroyed or damaged more vehicles than any other event, short of Hurricane Andrew back in 2005. About 250,000 automobile claims were filed in the wake of the storm. And what was unusual was how many of these vehicles were declared as basically totaled by insurers. And while you might look at these cars and they might appear to be fine, the reality is that they were flooded, and sometimes for days were in water.”

Current, Future Hurricane Seasons and Increased Flooding

The III expects this year to have “a very active hurricane season, about 75 percent above average.” Even though it began in June and has brought a number of weather events like Tropical Storm Andrea, we haven’t seen the peak of this year’s hurricane season yet.

The Institute also expects hurricanes to come in greater number and intensity in the future, according to Hartwig, who said that flooding will become more common in inland areas that aren’t used to it and that more vehicles will likely be damaged as a result.

“What we do know is that flooding events, which are a very common source of damage to vehicles, are likely to be more frequent, not just coastally—events like Sandy or events like Hurricane Ike back in 2008, which inundated the Texas coastline, or Katrina in 2005, we remember what happened there—but we’re talking about events inland, along rivers, and around even small streams. Many people [live near] these; they find it nice to have in their neighborhoods and their areas, but they can flood very quickly.”

“It’s quite likely we’ll see more inundation or flooding of vehicles in the future because of these very heavy and more frequent downpours that are projected for much of the country.”

“It doesn’t take much, just a few inches of water, and a car can float away and do a considerable amount of damage to your vehicle and those of others.” 

Advice for Drivers

Dr. Hartwig said that wild, wet weather from hurricanes and tropical storms can endanger vehicles in a number of ways, among them trees falling onto cars and flooded rivers submerging vehicles.

But there’s also hail and tornadoes that should worry drivers in states like Missouri and Oklahoma, according to Hartwig.

Motorists can protect themselves with some common-sense measures. Dr. Hartwig said that “it’s a lot about awareness.”

Some quick pointers:

–If you know that hail-likely weather is on the way and you have a garage, park your car there. Having a garage can even net you a discount on auto insurance rates, according to Hartwig, so check with your insurer.

–Don’t park near a body of water that can quickly flood and damage your vehicle. Rivers and streams can seem unassuming at first, he said, but can swell with heavy rains and ultimately flood. Damage is likely if your vehicle is nearby.

–Even underground parking garages are a place that drivers should be wary of. Hartwig said that he’s known of instances when cars left in the structures were found later “simply floating” in floodwater.

About Charles Nguyen
Charles Nguyen is an enterprising journalist who reported for Patch.com and the Desert Dispatch and was the editor in chief of the Guardian (the twice-weekly newspaper at the University of California, San Diego) before coming to Online Auto Insurance News.

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