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Asbestos, environmental claims rose by 16% in 2013


Asbestos and environmental losses jumped by 16% in 2013 after rising only 8% during 2012, according to a special report released by A.M. Best Co. Inc. Monday.

While total asbestos and environmental losses have increased during five of the past seven years, with only 2008 and 2011 showing declines of 35% and 31% respectively, the industry has funded nearly 90% of its aggregate liability, according to the report, “U.S. Insurers Continue Funding of A&E Liabilities Despite Elusive End Game.”

Best’s estimate of net asbestos losses for the U.S. property and casualty industry remains at $85 billion, with net environmental losses estimated at $42 billion, the agency said in its report.

Unfunded liabilities of $6.7 billion for asbestos and $3.9 billion for environmental “are relatively small numbers in light of the $78 billion (asbestos) and $38 billion (environmental) of cumulative losses incurred to reach these funding levels,” Best said in its report.

Insurers have maintained asbestos reserves while slowly paying down environmental reserves, Best’s data showed.

Asbestos reserves have held steady at about $23.5 billion since 2009, despite payouts totaling $12.1 billion over the same period, while environmental reserves have decreased slowly over the past five years to $5.3 billion in 2013 from $6.0 billion in 2009, as aggregate payouts have totaled $4.3 billion, Best said in its report.

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