Kristine Howe and her mother were stopped at the intersection of Ustick and Meridian roads on Monday when a driver slammed into the back of their minivan.
The minivan’s brakes were no match for the icy road. The vehicle bumped into another car stopped at the light.
On top of the auto claims the crash generated, Howe walked away with a neck injury — requiring an emergency room visit, medication and a health insurance claim.
Insurance agents and companies have seen plenty of claims in the past month from situations like this.
A record-breaking winter ruined buildings large and small — at least 100 damaged in Washington County alone — and caused hundreds of traffic accidents around Southwest Idaho.
While the dollar costs have yet to be tallied, at least one insurance company has started treating Idaho’s winter storm claims as “catastrophic” losses.
An industrywide standard for a “catastrophic event” is $25 million or more in damage and losses, based on claims data gathered by ISO (short for Insurance Services Office Inc.), a unit of New Jersey’s Verisk Analytics that provides claims data and analyses.
The company designated a catastrophe in Idaho earlier this month. It also designated weather catastrophes in 2015, when winds and winter storms hit North Idaho, and in the 1990s, after winter storms did $12 million in damage and wind and thunderstorms did $13 million.
It’s probably the worst that it’s been for claims for 10 or 15 years.
Property damage claims have spiked, too. Tony Ferguison, who owns Meridian agency Idaho Select Insurance, said the average homeowners insurance claim his customers have filed for repairs on winter-damaged properties is between $7,000 and $10,000.
The insurance bill is likely to be much higher for one of the worst-hit buildings in the Valley: Ridley’s Family Market in Weiser.
Ridley’s, the only grocery store in the Washington County city of 5,000, closed last week after its roof buckled under the weight of snow. For now, Weiser Memorial Hospital is donating space for Ridley’s to operate a temporary market while the building is repaired.
Owner Mark Ridley said he has filed a claim to Liberty Mutual for the damage.
The Idaho Department of Insurance does not process claims or typically learn of them unless someone files a complaint. But Consumer Services Bureau Chief Elaine Mellon said she is still hearing about the damage, and some towns are losing at least a roof a day.
Mellon and others said insurance companies have their own rules about what constitutes a “catastrophic” claim, and the designation affects how they handle those claims.
“They may send out a special catastrophic team to work on the claims, to help people get back up,” she said, or they might offer to cover additional living expenses while a family is without a home.
Ferguison said people who face premium increases after catastrophic losses may not have to pay as much as they would without the designation.
1,671 Winter driving accidents reported by Boise PD, Canyon County sheriff and ISP during the storms and their aftermath
Claims filed to Allstate from Jan. 3 through 19 have been listed as catastrophic losses, according to an Allstate claims representative.
But other companies — State Farm, for example — are not treating claims as catastrophic at this point, a spokesman said.
As drivers slipped and slid around the roads, the number of crashes spiked, according to local and state police.
Idaho State Police troopers responded to 298 crashes in December and January last winter in the Treasure Valley. Between December and the third week of January this winter, they had logged 498 crashes.
On an average day between Dec. 30 and Jan. 13, the Boise Police Department responded to about 60 traffic calls — crashes, cars that slid off the road, vehicles that were stuck or stalled, hit-and-runs, drivers who needed help and traffic hazards.
In Canyon County, sheriff’s deputies handled 456 crashes from Dec. 5 to Jan. 24, compared with 211 the same time last year.
Editor’s note: This story has been changed from an earlier version, to correct an error about industry catastrophe designations in Idaho.