Insurance companies across much of the state are bracing for an onslaught of claims, calls, inquiries ‑ and some sorrow, as residents began early assessments of storm damage Monday.
“It is very early; in some cases rain is still falling,” Russ Dubisky, of the South Carolina Insurance News Service, said Monday. “But we are looking at a catastrophic event, both for insured losses and uninsured losses.”
The insurance service is a trade association for insurers in South Carolina, and 70 percent of the state’s insurers are members, Dubisky said.
While many South Carolina homeowners do not have flood insurance, all may not necessarily be lost, agents say. Some damage will be covered by standard homeowners’ policies, Dubisky noted.
“Damage from fallen trees and the resulting damage from that would be covered under most policies,” Dubisky said.
While flooding has damaged many homes in the storm, the bulk of the claims insurers expect to see are from automobile damage, he said. Vehicles covered by an optional comprehensive auto insurance policy, which many policy holders in the state have, should cover significant damages, Dubisky said. That will be the “the loss leader” in terms of insured losses from the storm.
On Monday, the South Carolina Department of Insurance issued an emergency declaration about catastrophic rainfall and severe weather, which allows licensed adjusters from out of state to help handle claims more expeditiously.
“We’ve had some people call whose houses were devastated in Columbia,” said Steve Van Horn, owner of Kennedy Insurance Agency in Camden, said two callers to his agency reported their Columbia homes were “devastated” by that they had flood insurance.
Flood insurance will allow policy holders to “muddle through” the process toward recovery, Van Horn said, but even that coverage won’t always be a cure-all.
Other callers told Van Horn that they wished they wished they had the coverage.
Homeowners without flood insurance in South Carolina are “on their own” when rising flood waters come in that are not covered by a homeowners or commercial policy.
“A ton of people” in South Carolina don’t have flood insurance, Van Horn noted, because their exposure is not there. “Now, we have a 500-year flood and people say ‘Oh, my god.’ Who would have ever thought that in, say, in Heathwood in Columbia, you would have an (really) awful flood.”
Federal funds may be available, Van Horn said.
One insurance agent in Irmo said he began fielding calls Sunday. The agent, who did not want to be named, said callers sustained significant roof damage from the rains and wind and items in the house were damaged as well. Some homeowners were discovering that their flood insurance policies covered damage to the house but not the contents.
Dubisky, of the insurance service, said about 10 percent of South Carolinians have flood insurance.
“Our companies do this all the time,” Dubisky said of handling claims, but the insurance industry will take “a hit,” he said. “This is going to be an expensive event. There’s going to be a lot of insured losses that our companies are going to have to pay for.”
Roddie Burris: 803-771-8398