Terrorism Risk and Insurance

madrid-spain-terrorist-attack-in-trainThe leading Insurance Information Institute gives insight in the connection of terrorism risk and insurance. Of course we have -at all times – to protect our citizens and society from heavy losses and essential disruption. But in case of an emergency, what can the public relevance of insurance be? What actually can be insured and what not?

“In addition to the risk of natural disasters, the insurance industry faces the threat of terrorist attacks. Losses stemming from the destruction of the World Trade Center and other buildings by terrorists on September 11, 2001, totaled about $31.6 billion, including commercial liability and group life insurance claims—not adjusted for inflation—or $42.9 billion in 2016 dollars. About two thirds of these losses were paid for by reinsurers, companies that provide insurance for insurers.

The Difficulty of Insuring Terrorism Risk: From an insurance viewpoint, terrorism risk is very different from the kind of risks typically insured. To be readily insurable, risks have to have certain characteristics.

The risk must be measurable. Insurers must be able to determine the possible or probable number of events (frequency) likely to result in claims and the maximum size or cost (severity) of these events. For example, insurers know from experience about how many car crashes to expect per 100,000 miles driven for any geographic area and what these crashes are likely to cost. As a result they can charge a premium equal to the risk they are assuming in issuing an auto insurance policy.

A large number of people or businesses must be exposed to the risk of loss but only a few must actually experience one so that the premiums of those that do not file claims can fund the losses of those who do.

Losses must be random as regards time, location and magnitude.

Insofar as acts of terrorism are intentional, terrorism risk doesn’t have these characteristics. In addition, no one knows what the worst case scenario might be. There have been few terrorist attacks, so there is little data on which to base estimates of future losses, either in terms of frequency or severity. Terrorism losses are also likely to be concentrated geographically, since terrorism is usually targeted to produce a significant economic or psychological impact. This leads to a situation known in the insurance industry as adverse selection, where only the people most at risk purchase coverage, the same people who are likely to file claims. Moreover, terrorism losses are never random. They are carefully planned.”