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Report analyzes workers comp and earthquake risk in California

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Losses for a 100-year earthquake in California are expected to exceed $300 million with more than 300 fatalities and a 250-year event may exceed $1.4 billion in losses with more than 1,000 fatalities, according to a report released Monday by the Oakland, California-based Workers Compensation Insurance Rating Bureau.

The report quantifying the earthquake risk faced by California workers compensation insurers was created in partnership with Risk Management Solutions Inc., a provider of catastrophe modeling analytics, which used the latest earthquake modeling to calculate risk and losses.

The report predicted that injuries involving "permanent total disability," considered “rare” and which often require lifetime wage replacement and medical care, were a major driver of overall estimated costs, accounting for more than 35% of expected annual loss.

The study also looked at the locations of major fault lines in California, with major losses predicted to occur in populated areas close to the San Andreas Fault, which runs from the San Francisco Bay area to east of Los Angeles.

Time of day was also factored in the study. If the 100-year event was assumed to occur in peak work-time hours, the estimated expected losses are about $1.5 billion. If the 250-year event was assumed to occur in peak work-time hours, the estimated expected losses are about $5.1 billion.

“Recent earthquake events in California such as the Loma Prieta Earthquake (in 1989) and the Northridge Earthquake (in 1994) happened during off-peak hours,” said Ward Brooks, rating bureau vice president of research, in a press statement. “Had the timing been different, the human impact could have been much worse. We are pleased to facilitate a higher awareness of this risk.”