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After Hurricane Andrew in 1992, insurers realized that losses from hurricanes could be much higher than they had previously thought. Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, which cost insurers more than $41 billion at the time, confirmed their fears. After these extraordinary losses, reinsurance companies, insurers that share the cost of claims with primary companies, such as homeowners insurers, said that they could not assume so much risk and that primary companies must reduce their potential losses.

During the Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June to November, every coastal state from Florida to Maine could potentially be hit by a storm. Increasing development along the coastal areas of these states has put more and more homes at risk of severe windstorm damage. To limit their exposure to catastrophic losses from natural disasters, insurers in these states sell homeowners insurance policies with percentage deductibles for storm damage instead of the traditional dollar deductibles, which are used for other types of losses such as fire damage and theft. With a policy that has a $500 standard deductible, for example, the policyholder must pay the first $500 of the claim out of pocket. But percentage deductibles are based on the home’s insured value. So if a house is insured for $300,000 and has a 5 percent deductible, the first $15,000 of a claim must be paid out of the policyholder’s pocket. The details of hurricane deductibles are spelled out on the declarations page of homeowners policies.

To some degree, depending on the state, insurance companies determine the level of the hurricane or windstorm or wind/hail deductible and where it should apply, except in Florida where state law dictates these variables. Insurers’ hurricane deductible plans must be reviewed by the individual state insurance department where they may be subject to various regulations and laws.

There are two kinds of wind damage deductibles: hurricane deductibles, which apply to damage solely from hurricanes, and windstorm or wind/hail deductibles, which apply to any kind of wind damage. Percentage deductibles typically vary from 1 percent of a home’s insured value to 5 percent. In some coastal areas with high wind risk, hurricane deductibles may be higher. The amount that the homeowner will pay depends on the home’s insured value and the “trigger” selected by the insurance company, which determines under what circumstances the deductible applies. In some states, policyholders may have the option of paying a higher premium in return for a traditional dollar deductible, depending on how close to the shore they live. In some high-risk coastal areas, insurers may not give policyholders this option, making the percentage deductible mandatory.

Nineteen states and the District of Columbia have hurricane deductibles: Alabama, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Mississippi, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Texas, Virginia and Washington DC. Listed below are reports for these states detailing hurricane deductibles.

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