Recent world events have instilled a sense of fear in anyone who turns on the television or opens a newspaper. People are more aware of their vulnerabilities, and more interested in purchasing insurance. The irony is that the same disasters, disease and acts of war have created a negative trend in the property and casualty insurance industry, to the point where these types of insurance are more expensive and more difficult for consumers to obtain.
The property and casualty insurance industry posted a $7.9 billion net loss in 2001. According to the Insurance Services Office (ISO) and the National Association of Independent Insurers (NAII), this is first time that the industry has ever reported a net loss. Experts predicted a negative 2.7 percent return rate for property and casualty insurance, almost 6.5 percent lower than the return rate of the year 2000.
These losses have caused a number of property and casualty insurance companies to cut back in an effort to economize. One step taken to reduce losses was to avoid adding any new property and casualty insurance policies. The insurers have also purposefully stopped updating or renewing existing property and casualty insurance policies. As a result, the premium price of property and casualty insurance policies has increased.
A number of factors are said to have caused the property and casualty insurance problem, including acts of terrorism, natural disasters, economic turmoil, and even mold.
The headline of one trial lawyer publication, “Mold is Gold”, indicated that recent court decisions against insurers had jeopardized profitability of the property and casualty insurance industry. Invasive mold was recognized as the latest household hazard, and property and casualty insurance policyholders were cashing in with lucrative lawsuits. A well-publicized Texas lawsuit resulted in a staggering $32.1 million decision — extremely profitable for the owner, potentially devastating for the property and casualty insurance industry.
The terrorist attacks of September 11 greatly contributed to the negative impact on the property and casualty insurance industry. It has been reported that property and casualty insurance claims related to the events of September 11 totaled as much as $70 billion. The same event has also caused the decline of the stock market, adding to the insurance industry’s downward trend.
This negative impact has also had a detrimental effect on the real estate industry, where property and casualty insurance is essential. Property and casualty insurance coverage is essential when applying for a conventional, government-assisted and commercial mortgage; without it, lending companies will reject the mortgage application. Therefore, the real estate market cannot function properly if this type of insurance is more expensive or less accessible. In real estate, mortgages are paramount in closing the vast majority of sales. Without property and casualty insurance, there won’t be any mortgages, and sales in the real estate market will plummet. Moreover, without property and casualty insurance coverage, homeowners would find it difficult or impossible to maintain their mortgage obligations. Lenders would be forced to foreclose on the property, or subject the homeowners to expensive lender forced-place coverage.
No one can contest the devastating personal consequences of natural disasters, acts of terrorism and disease. The insurance and real estate industries are two examples of how these events have had a negative impact on our economy as well.