Snow, ice and frozen pipes: Are you covered?

By Rosalie L. Donlon: Property Casualty 360


If a foot of snow causes your roof to collapse or if extreme cold temperatures cause your pipes to freeze, will your insurance policy cover the damage? It depends on whether your policy provides coverage for named perils or open perils. Here are some key things to know as you review your policy.

The Insurance Services Office (ISO) standard Homeowners forms and the equivalent American Association of Insurance Services (AAIS) forms list the weight of ice, sleet and snow as named perils–which means that damage from the weight of ice, snow or sleet to a building or property contained in a building is covered. Loss to awnings, fences, patios, pavements, swimming pool, foundations, retaining walls, piers, wharves or docks is excluded.

Roof cave-in

If personal property inside a building is damaged because the roof caves in under the weight of the snow, then coverage for damage from a collapse is triggered. The weight of ice or snow may cause a roof to sag (which is not considered a “collapse” under the homeowners forms) or gutters to pull away from the roof, leading to damage to personal property, which also would be covered.

Ice damming and snow melt

Ice damming—caused by the weight or mass of snow that has compacted and turned to ice—often causes water to back up under shingles or flow under eaves from clogged gutters. If the water stains walls and damages ceilings, there is coverage for the damage to the building because there is no exclusion for thawing. Further, resulting water damage to contents should be covered because the language of the policy covers the weight of the ice, snow or sleet that causes damage. The scope of the coverage may be broadened to the weight of ice as a proximate, not necessarily a direct, cause of loss.

Incorrect installation caused the leak

In some cases, the weight of the ice might cause roof or siding shingles to dislocate just enough to allow water to enter the house. If the leak is because the roof or flashing wasn’t installed properly or the roof is worn, your policy may not cover the cost to repair the roof. It may only cover the damage to the interior of the house and contents.

Remember that with named perils coverage, it’s left to the insured to prove that a covered peril was the cause of the loss. If you have a comprehensive homeowners policy instead of a broad form or special form policy, it’s up to the insurer to prove that the loss is excluded.

Frozen pipes burst 

Under the homeowner forms, in all situations—vacant, occupied or unoccupied—there is no coverage for freezing plumbing, heating, air conditioning or automatic fire protection or of a household appliance unless the named insured has taken precautions to maintain heat in the building, or shut off and drained systems and appliances.

This is often a problem with snowbirds who want to save on utility bills while they’re away. Generally keeping a thermostat set at around 55 degrees during the winter months should prevent your pipes from freezing, but the furnace may break down or there may be an extended power failure. If your home is going to be unoccupied for a long time, and you don’t want to keep the heat on, be sure to shut off the water supply and drain the system and appliances of water to avoid frozen pipes. Even better: have someone you trust check on the property, especially when the temperature has been extremely low for several days.

Damage from frozen tree branches

Generally, trees, shrubs, plants and lawns aren’t covered for damage by wind, hail, the weight of ice or snow, or any unnamed peril that would be covered under open perils coverage. If the tree or the branch falls on your house or garage, however, damage to the structure is covered.

Power failure from winter storm

In many parts of the Northeast during the winter of 2014 storms caused power failures that lasted for several days. Your homeowners policy may cover the cost of the food in your refrigerator and freezer, up to certain dollar limits, usually $500.

If you can’t stay in your home because of the power failure, some policies provide coverage for the expenses of a hotel and the cost of meals.

Review your homeowners policy to be sure you understand your coverage, and take precautions. If you can do so safely, shovel large accumulations of snow off your roof and unclog gutters. If you can’t do so yourself, you may be able to find a contractor to remove the snow for you. And think positive: Spring officially begins on March 20.

China Becomes World’s Third Largest Insurance Market Driven by Surging Premiums

Manny Salvacion

Data from the China Insurance Regulatory Commission (CIRC) showed that China has become the world’s third largest insurance market in 2015, as insurance premiums continue to grow in the past five years, the Xinhua News Agency reported.

According to the CIRC data, insurance premiums increased from 1.3 trillion yuan (about $197.9 million) in 2010 to 2.4 trillion yuan in 2015, with an annual growth rate of 13.4 percent.

The report said that the insurance market in the world’s second largest economy continues to expand, as the total assets of China’s insurance industry has more than doubled from 5 trillion yuan in 2010 to 12 trillion yuan in 2015.

Experts noted that the performance of the industry may be attributed to the country’s growing economy and improving living standards of the people.

The report, however, said that despite the booming market, insurance companies in the country have also experienced bumper years.

The data further showed that profits of the whole insurance sector totaled 282.4 billion yuan in 2015, compared to only 83.7 billion yuan in 2010, back when China was the world’s sixth largest insurance market.

The report said that China contributed 26 percent of the growth of global insurance market in 2015.

A report by in Nov. 2015 said that China’s insurance sector is among the leaders in the country in terms of better access to investors, as foreign insurers enjoy the same treatment as domestic peers.

Australian national Yin Xiaosong, general manager at Ergo Life Insurance, one of the first batch of insurers to test waters in the Chinese market, said: “We are now almost enjoying the same kind of treatment compared with local insurance companies, especially in areas like life insurance and property insurance. And also in terms of business coverage, regions and product lines, the differences are getting smaller.”

The report said that foreign insurers gained access to the car insurance market in 2012, and more changes followed as some 56 foreign insurance companies from 16 countries have set up shops in China and others followed suit.

Last year, CIRC data showed that China’s insurance companies’ profits rose an estimated 95 percent year-on-year to reach 244 billion yuan ($ 38.4 billion) in the first three quarters of 2015.

Zurich Insurance has poached Mario Greco, the well-regarded boss of Italian insurer Generali, as its next chief executive.

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$1 billion insured losses in California fires

By Janie Har


SAN FRANCISCO _ Damage from two destructive Northern California wildfires that killed six and sent thousands fleeing their homes topped $1 billion in insured losses, according to a preliminary estimate by the state’s insurance department.

The two fires started days apart in September, burning more than 200 square miles of remote, mountainous territory north and northeast of San Francisco.

The preliminary figure announced Monday includes $700 million from a fire centred largely in Lake County that killed four and destroyed nearly 2,000 structures, including some 1,300 homes. The so-called Valley Fire is the third most destructive wildfire in state history, based on the number of structures lost, and the fifth-costliest based on insured losses.

Another fire in Amador and Calaveras counties caused an estimated $300 million in insured losses. That fire killed two people and destroyed more than 800 buildings, making it the seventh-most destructive wildfire to hit the state.

“A year-round fire season is California’s new reality,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones in a statement. “Residents and communities, especially those in high-risk fire areas, must take precautions now before the next devastating wildfire strikes.”

This is the first damage estimate from the California Department of Insurance for the fires, compiled from insurance claims filed through December. A final figure is months away.

Insurers report they have received 5,600 claims for commercial and residential properties, vehicles and other items. Lake County residents have filed the bulk of claims.

Lake County Supervisor Jim Comstock said $1 billion sounds right.

“I’m not at all surprised because this Valley Fire sought out property with structures on it to burn, it seemed like,” he said. As for Lake County’s place in wildfire history, he said, “It’s an infamy, unfortunately.”

The $1 billion does not include uninsured losses nor does it include damage to public roads and utilities.

For that, global insurance company Aon Benfield estimated last year that the two fires did nearly $2 billion in economic damage, including business interruption. About $1.5 billion of that was in Lake County alone.

Aon reported insured losses for the two fires topped $1.2 billion, including $975 million in Lake County. That’s within ballpark range of the state’s figures, said Aon associate director Steve Bowen.

“These two fires by themselves were two of the costliest in the state of California since 2007,” he said. “We’re talking about a once-in-a-decade type of event in the losses alone.”

Bowen said the fire in Lake County is the fifth costliest wildfire in state and U.S. history in terms of insured losses.

The costliest remains the Oakland Hills Fire of 1991, with damage covered by insurance costing $2.9 billion when adjusted for inflation. The second costliest is a 2007 wildfire in San Diego County that caused about $1.8 billion in damage covered by insurance.

The cause of both Northern California fires remains under investigation.


AXA Strategic Ventures bets $11 million on machine learning with Neura

AXA Strategic Ventures announced yesterday a $11 million investment in Neura, a company that uses machine learning to revolutionize the Internet of Things.

Neura : a customer-centric, smarter technology

Neura is a company that uses machine learning to create a digital identity map of individuals. Neura enriches apps and devices with insights about users’ past and present actions, as well as calculated predictions about what they will do next

7585-305x-Manish_Agarwal_480Neura’s technology, utilized for healthcare, music services, connected cars or homes, lets people get to an unprecedented level of technology personalization by computing a constantly updated portrait of user behavior patterns. “We believe Neura’s approach is disruptive and is going to change the way we use and interact with data and devices on a daily basis in the future“, said Manish Agarwal, General Partner at AXAStrategic Ventures in New York.

$11M investment to foster Neura’s technological and business potential

AXA Strategic Ventures (AXA SV) is a global €230 million venture capital fund to support promising startups and companies. A Series A round, co-led by AXA Strategic Ventures and Pitango Venture Capital and with participation from Liberty Israel Venture Fund and Lenovo Group, led to an $11M investment to enable Neura to further realize its technological and business potential.

Coinciding with the first open release of the Neura development framework, designed to let developers personalize and contextualize their products, the new capital will be used to expand Neura’s business reach and make the service ubiquitous.

AXA Strategic Ventures: a key player in AXA’s relationship with startups

This investment in Neura completes the recent four investments made in the second half of 2015 in the U.S.: Bee, PriceMethod, GoldBean and CoPromote offer disruptive services fostering emerging strategic innovations in insurance and financial services. These five companies join AXA SV’s portfolio, which also includes investments in PolicyGenius, Limelight Health, VolunteerSpot in the U.S. and Climate Secure, Easy Proprietaires, Evercontact, Flyr, Fundshop, Widmee, Netheros, Particeep and Art2M in Europe.

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