Canadian Underwriter

Claims adjusters react to B.C. flooding

December 6, 2021   by Greg Meckbach

Motorist driving on closes Trans-Canada highway in Abbotsford, BC

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It’s too early to tell how much the recent “atmospheric river” in British Columbia will cost the industry, but independent adjusters are observing widespread damage.

Environment Canada lifted weather alerts for British Columbia on Thursday as storm conditions eased, floodwaters started to recede and some transportation corridors reopened, the Canadian Press reports.

It is too early to tell how much the disaster will cost in economic and insured losses, said Anita Paulic, director of operations and catastrophe response at ClaimsPro.

“The water damage spanned over three of ClaimsPro’s designated districts: Vancouver Island, the Lower Mainland and the BC interior. The geographic coverage is quite substantial. The losses range anywhere from missing shingles torn off to full scale total losses,” Paulic said in an interview.

“It’s going to be tough to know how much of it is going to be an insurable event,” said Owen Watson, Kernaghan Adjusters’ vice president of B.C. operations. “The cost to repair public infrastructure is going to be significant.”

Quoting B.C. public safety minister Mike Farnworth, CP reports that 14,800 people were evacuated since the first storm hit in mid-November. That includes the entire community of Merritt in B.C.’s southern Interior.

ClaimsPro is seeing a mixture of commercial, farm and residential property.

For Kernaghan Adjusters, about 80% to 90% of the claims its adjusters have seen, so far, are residential property, said Watson. In B.C., “there are quite a few properties damaged as a result of the flooding, depending on the area,” Watson told Canadian Underwriter.

“We are seeing a lot of damage in places in and near Delta, Abbotsford and Princeton.

It includes water damage as a result of sewer backup, overland flooding and the rising water table.”

It is also not clear how much of the water damage will be covered by property insurance. Until 2015, overland flood was generally not covered on home insurance polices. Since then, various insurers have offered various policy wordings, though some clients in high-risk areas are not able to get overland coverage at affordable rates.

“ClaimsPro is having some delicate conversations,” said Paulic. “Every policy is different from every carrier. And what we’re doing is making sure that we’re doing a very thorough investigation in order to have those exclusions and/or coverages discussed with each carrier on an individual basis.”

For its part, Kernaghan “is seeing a mix right now of claims that are clearly covered, claims where there will be coverage concerns and then claims where the water loss exceeds a sub-limit on the property policy,” said Watson.

November saw unprecedented rainfall in places like Abbotsford, which shattered previous monthly records by about 99 millimetres, CP reported.

The cleanup work will involve repairing vital transportation routes crippled by floods and slides, restoring agricultural operations deluged by high water and getting thousands of evacuated people back to their homes and communities, CP reported, quoting Farnworth.


Feature image: A motorist drives on a service road along the closed Trans-Canada Highway as floodwaters fill the ditches beside the highway and farmland in Abbotsford, B.C., on Wednesday, December 1, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck