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Asbestos, environmental losses lowest since 2000: Best


The U.S. property/casualty insurance industry’s 2008 asbestos and environmental losses were the lowest since 2000, according to a report by A.M. Best Co. Inc. slated to be released Monday.

According to the report, net incurred asbestos losses dropped 49.9% to an estimated $1.3 billion in 2008 from a year earlier, while net incurred environmental losses dropped 41.3% to about $400 million.

The decline was the fifth in the past six years, but the industry increased its aggregate funding for asbestos and environmental liabilities by nearly $5 billion the past two years, Oldwick, N.J.-based Best says.

Best estimates the industry’s ultimate asbestos and environmental losses will reach $117 billion, down from a previous estimate of $121 billion. Asbestos exposures, however, are projected to reach $75 billion, up $10 billion from a previous estimate; environmental exposures are projected to drop to $42 billion from a previously estimated $55 billion.

“The increase in asbestos estimates reflects ongoing, elevated levels of annual incurred losses, as well as a subtle shift of losses away from product liability claims to more costly nonproducts claims against more peripheral defendants,” according to the report. “Also affecting asbestos losses is a growing proportion of settlements in more serious cases, principally related to mesothelioma, which is increasing the average values of such claims.”

The drop in environmental loss estimates “reflects a steady decline in incurred losses since 1999, while the industry’s ‘mega’ losses relating to the petrochemical industry largely have been settled,” Best said.