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1/24/2012 - Insurers pay out $32 billion in 2011

Disaster declarations can open up funding for repairs.

In an effort to help homeowners and businesses rebuild after their properties were destroyed by environmental catastrophes, insurance companies paid out more than $32 billion in claims in 2011, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Robert Hartwig, an economist and president of the III, said the most significant losses came between January and September.

"Catastrophes striking the United States in the first nine months of 2011 caused $32.6 billion in direct insured losses, nearly double the $18.6 billion in catastrophe-caused direct insured losses insurers generally incur over the first nine months of any given year," said Hartwig, referring to figures recently released by ISO's Property Claim Services. 

He added that when these numbers are combined with other events that occurred between September and December, direct insured losses could exceed $35 billion.

Meanwhile, federal disaster declarations were also numerous in 2011, totaling 99 and breaking the previous record of 81 that was set in 2010, the III reports.

Disaster declarations frees up federal money that states and local municipalities can use for repair work to roads and bridges. Businesses and residents have to rely on their own homeowners and business insurance plans for assistance.

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