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Texas Windstorm Insurance Association Won’t Cover Ike Storm Surge Damage

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As the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association votes to replenish its reserves in the wake of Hurricane Ike, it appears that there is a dispute brewing over the association’s claim that its policies do not cover storm surge damage.

The Texas Windstorm Insurance Association covers  142,566 policies in the six Texas counties hardest hit by Ike.  The amount of claims paid through the association depends on how much of the damage is determined to be wind-related.  Texas Windstorm Insurance Association policies do not cover flooding and most other water damage.  

But a consumer group is disputing the association’s assertion that its polices do not cover damage from storm surge.  “A storm surge is a phenomenon peculiar to windstorms, which should be covered by windstorm insurance,” Alex Winslow, executive director of Texas Watch, said in a statement.

The Texas Windstorm Association’s general manager told the American Statesman that its  policies are “very specific” that  damages from floods and overflowing of rivers and other bodies of water are not covered.  Courts in other states have backed such exclusions, he said.

On Wednesday, the association’s board voted to collect an additional $430 million from Texas insurers to bolster claim reserves.  Ultimately, Texas taxpayers will foot some of that bill because insurers can recoup about  $230 million through state tax credits.

The association’ general manager had originally proposed assessing insurers $830 million.  But insurance companies, including State Farm, Farmers, Travelers and USAA, opposed that. Insurance company representatives hold five of nine seats on the board.  Given the scope of the damage along the Texas Gulf Coast, combined with the fact that hurricane season is far from over, it is expected that the Texas Windstorm Association will need additional assessments.

According to The Houston Chronicle, association’s $100 million base, along with part of a $500 million catastrophic reserve trust fund, were already used up paying for damage caused by Hurricane Dolly and Tropical Storm Edouard earlier in the summer.  The association raises money through assessments on all property and casualty insurers authorized to write coverage in Texas.   New assessments were needed because the wind pool had only $370 million in its fund.

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