New Jersey Manufacturers Insurance Co., the state's largest underwriter of automobile policies, said today it expects losses from Hurricane Sandy to exceed $300 million.
Such losses will be four-times as much as what the West Trenton-based insurer paid out following Tropical Storm Irene, previously the most costly event in its 99-year history. Claims from Irene amounted to $75 million, the company said.
More than 52,000 Sandy-related claims have been filed to date, NJM, as the company is also known, said in a press release. The carrier has closed roughly 45 percent of these claims and disbursed payment of nearly $100 million to policyholders.
NJM was one of several insurers that have announced estimated Sandy losses in recent days. Travelers Companies said it expects to incur $650 million in Sandy-related losses after taxes and reinsurance. The Hartford, a Connecticut-based insurer, said it expects to incur about $350 million in losses.
Last week, Allstate, the second-largest home insurer, said Sandy-losses should exceed $1 billion, while Branchville-based Selective Insurance Group said net losses were in the range of $52 million.
Despite its anticipated losses, NJM said its balance sheet can handle the payouts and that policyholders "can be assured" that payments will be made where coverage exists.
"Regardless of the volume of claims, or the ultimate cost, our policyholders who sustain covered losses can be sure of our commitment to helping them during this difficult time," NJM CEO Bernie Flynn said in a statement. "The entire NJM staff, and our trusted partners, have been working around the clock and will continue to do so until all service obligations are fulfilled."
In addition to the 800,000 vehicles it insures, NJM writes coverage for about 280,000 households, making it New Jersey's third-largest home insurer.
NJM has received claims for 9,300 vehicles and 42,700 homes, spokesman Eric Stenson said. Of the homeowner's claims, about 4,600 were for flooding, the company. An NJM unit underwrites about 10,200 flood policies as a "Write Your Own" carrier for the National Flood Insurance Program.
Stenson said it is too early to tell when the company will have a final estimate of its Sandy losses, or speculate on how these losses could impact future rates.