Insurance claims leap as big freeze continues

Insurers today said they had seen a sharp increase in home and motor claims as a result of the freezing weather.

Many groups reported a spike of up to 50 per cent in the number of claims they were handling, particularly for burst pipes.

Insurer More Than said it had been "exceptionally busy", receiving more than 50 per cent more claims than it would usually expect for the time of year.

The group said the vast majority of the calls related to the freezing conditions, with increases in both the proportion of single motor vehicle accidents and vehicles hit whilst parked.

It also reported a rise in the number of customers who had suffered burst pipes.

Halifax Home Insurance said one in six of every home insurance claims it had received during the past two weeks were for burst pipes, up from one in 10 during the early part of December.

The group said it was anticipating seeing a "significant increase" in claims for burst pipes this winter.

Martyn Foulds, senior claims manager at Halifax Home Insurance, said: "The average cost to repair damage caused by a burst pipe is around £2,000, so it is worth ensuring the home is properly insured, taking steps to prevent frozen pipes, and also knowing what to do to limit damage if a pipe does burst."

The UK's largest insurer Aviva said it had seen a 30 per cent jump in the number of motor insurance claims it was receiving.

But it said it had not yet seen a significant increase in claims for burst pipes, although it was expecting a steep rise once temperatures begin to increase and ice melts, causing damage to people's homes where pipes have broken.

It said there was a 500 per cent increase in burst pipe claims during last year's cold snap.

The group said it was also receiving claims for damage caused by the weight of snow on roofs and guttering, as well as damage caused by falling ice falling.

AA Insurance said it was handling around a third more claims calls than usual, although it said the spike was lower than it had expected as a lot of people had decided not to travel due to the freezing conditions.

The Association of British Insurers said the increase in claims was likely to be far lower than for other weather events, such as flooding.

An ABI spokesman said: "Snow tends to be disruptive rather than destructive."

He added that while many people suffered motor accidents as a result of the ice, in terms of the number of claims insurers received, this was often offset by the fact that there were fewer vehicles on the roads.

He said claims for burst pipes cost insurers £800 million during 2008, the latest full year for which figures are available.

He added that insurers were also receiving claims from people who had experienced travel delays or missed flights because of the weather, as this was covered by many travel insurance policies.

The ABI renewed its warning to motorists not to leave their cars unattended with the engines running to defrost.

There has been a spate of vehicles stolen under these circumstances in some parts of the country, with four cars stolen in this way in one morning in Greater Manchester earlier this week.

The group warned that leaving a vehicle unattended with the keys in the ignition could be seen as not taking reasonable care, which might invalidate an insurance claim if the vehicle was stolen.

Insurance broker Swinton said it had taken a record number of calls from motorists involved in snow-related accidents during the past seven days.

Axa said it had seen a 10 per cent rise in the number of motor insurance claims it was receiving, mostly involving collisions in slow-moving traffic.

It added that Swiftcover, its internet motor insurance arm, had seen a 76 per cent jump in claims during the past three days compared with January last year.