Hot summer sees upsurge in insurance claims

Overnight storm damage in Ervita, Järva County earlier this month.
Overnight storm damage in Ervita, Järva County earlier this month. Source: Olev Kenk/ERR

This year's hot summer has had its impact on the nation's insurers, some of whom have reported a rise in claims over damages not only relating to storms, but also directly and indirectly to hot weather in general, including traffic accidents and damage to personal items cause by the heat.

Triinu Pärn, senior manager of property insurance at If Kindlustus, told ERR that: "A trend can be noticed this year that, even while the number of storms is similar, the number of households affected and the amount of claims paid out has risen."

The trend for a larger number of incidents arising from warmer summers and the ensuing thunderstorms in particular, has been matched by a pattern of fewer claims during the winter months, since most winters in recent years have been comparatively mild, some insurance companies in Estonia say.

A recent storm which hit northern Estonia on Victory Day, a national holiday, led to extensive power outages, and was followed almost immediately by all-time June temperature highs.

More recently, a wildfire which started in a commercially-exploited Pärnu County peat bog burned for several days before being extinguished.

Weather conditions and the heatwave have even had an effect on contents insurance claims.

Swedbank's head of risk insurance Liina Laks told ERR that: "Heat is often accompanied by thunder, strong winds and rain. Thunder has caused damage to home items such as set-top boxes, TVs and other appliances."

Potentially more dangerous disruptions include those: "Reported in connection with broken trees, flying garden furniture and trampolines," Laks said, adding that personal items are not safe during a heatwave even when there is no storm.

"A motorcycle bag, toiletries, tennis kit, an electronic toothbrush and a battery bank have all 'melted', directly due to the heat," Laks went on.

The hot weather also engenders a kind of sluggishness which can translate into incidents and accidents, including those involving those traveling on two wheels, she said.

"Hot weather can make people more distracted – there have noticeably ben more accidents in traffic, especially on bicycles and scooters," which not only carries with it a risk of injury or damage to said means of transport, but also, since many cyclists and scooter riders have no third-party insurance, can also cost them in the pocket if a collision damages someone else's property. 

Storms themselves can naturally cause structural damage including to roofs and facades, while virtual flash floods can cause damage too as drainage systems in built up areas struggle, or fail, to meet the sudden surge.

Power failures can have a knock-on effect too, including even spoiled food stored in a refrigerator, if an outage lasts any length of time, she noted.

Precautions could include not parking under trees if a storm is due, and ensuring windows are closed when away from home, even if temperatures are high.

The phenomena spread beyond Estonia too, though affect Estonian citizens and residents, for instance in hikes in travel insurance due to more tumultuous weather conditions, Kairit Luht of If Kindlustus told ERR.

Liina Laks noted that climate change may make this situation worse, going forward.

She said: "Estonia is generally in a very good location in terms of natural disasters; we have not had any major hurricanes, wild fires or floods. However, it cannot be ignored that climate change may start to affect Estonia more."

She also noted that the largest payout Swedbank has issued in the past year related to natural phenomena; in turn this might lead to insurers seeing a rise in customers fearing exactly such outcomes.

Nonetheless, Laks said, insurance premiums had not yet changed as a result of weather and climate conditions, adding that it was difficult to predict if and how this could happen.

Triinu Pärn at If said that: "Looking further ahead, as certain areas become more affected by more extreme weather events, such as floods, they more broadly affect the risks of living there, which in turn may make it more expensive to insure properties."


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Editor: Andrew Whyte

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