Swiss insurers brace for hefty hurricane bill

Hurricane Sandy, which is set to wreak havoc on the East Coast of the United States, could be costly for Swiss insurers which have covered the highly developed, densely populated area, analysts said on Monday.

Swiss insurers brace for hefty hurricane bill
An October 28th satellite image sees Hurricane Sandy expand and intensify (Photo: NASA).

"Even as it approaches, Sandy has provoked some disruption to the economy via precautionary measures" taken to protect the population, noted analysts at the Zurich Cantonal Bank (ZKB).

In New York, one of the world's leading stock markets will be closed on Monday and possibly on Tuesday as well, market operator NYSE Euronext has said, the first time trading has been cancelled since the September 11th 2001 terror attacks.

"If Sandy hits major cities, we should expect serious damage, not only material damage but also through disruptions to business activity," ZKB analysts said.

They forecast that the world's second-biggest reinsurance company, Swiss Re, could face claims totalling several billion dollars, possibly even more than those incurred from Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

That storm resulted in a total $72 billion in damage covered by commercial insurance companies, of which Swiss Re had covered $1.2 in turn.

Analysts at the Swiss asset manager Vontobel estimate that damage from Hurricane Sandy would probably not exceed the quarterly budget of major insurers however, and add that Swiss Re should be able to pay a dividend this year.

Shares in Swiss Re fell by three percent to 62.95 francs in midday trading while those in Zurich Insurance Group were off by 2.88 percent at 226 francs.

The SMI index of leading Swiss shares have given up a slight 0.08 percent overall.

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EXPLAINED: Why you need ‘legal protection insurance’ in Switzerland

Swiss insurance companies offer a variety of services, but the one covering legal disputes is among the most popular ones. This is what you should know about it.

EXPLAINED: Why you need 'legal protection insurance' in Switzerland
Law and order: Legal insurance may make it easier. Photo by Sora Shimazaki from Pexels

The Swiss like to be prepared for all kinds of disasters — both real and imaginary.

This is where insurance comes in.

Whether it’s a policy that covers damages inflicted on cars by weasels, or insurance for theft of sleds and skis placed outside a mountain restaurant, people here don’t like to leave anything to chance.

One of the most popular optional coverages — as opposed the health insurance, which is compulsory — is legal protection insurance (Rechtsschutzversicherungen in German, protection juridique in French, and protezione giuridica in Italian).

What is it and what does it cover?

Simply put, it covers attorney and other associated fees if you undertake court action against someone, are sued, or simply need legal advice.

There are two different types of legal protection insurance — one specifically for traffic accidents and the other for all other matters. Sometimes they are combined.

Typically, this insurance covers costs of legal representation associated with contract disputes, employment, loans and debts, healthcare, housing, retail purchases, and travel.

Photo by Rodnae Productions from Pexels

Some carriers also insure cases related to marital law and inheritance.

Most will not cover attorney fees for criminal cases where you are the perpetrator, or financial disputes related to asset management, banking and investment.

Also excluded is legal action related to political or religious activism.

Can you choose your own lawyer or will you have one assigned to you by the insurance company?

Typically, an insurer has a roster of approved attorneys with whom it works. Some allow the client to choose from the list, while  others select one for you.

If your own lawyer is part of your insurer’s roster, you can request he or she represents you, but it is not guaranteed.

How much does this insurance cost?

Fees vary depending on what coverage you need (traffic accidents, general, or combined), whether they have deductibles, and how high they are.

You can compare the premiums by using this link.

Do you actually need this coverage?

As is the case with any optional insurance, you don’t need it until you do.

Generally speaking, and according to online consumer comparison site, “if you require legal consultation at least once every two years, getting personal legal insurance often makes financial sense. Just the legal consultation benefits which you get with some insurance policies can make up for the cost of premiums”.

READ MORE: How much does health insurance cost in Switzerland?