AXA's claims statistics show in which years storm damage occurred most often. The differences are significant: Each year, the insurance costs range from CHF 50 million to CHF 300 million. Jura was most affected by hail, Schwyz by flooding, and Ticino by lightning.
Two years in a row, Switzerland has experienced an above-average amount of storms with correspondingly severe damage. How will the situation be this year? The storm season typically lasts from May to August, although the risk across the country varies from region to region. AXA's claims statistics for the last ten years paint a clear picture of where the various kinds of damage occurred most often.
Due to both the number of cases and the costs involved, hail damage to cars makes up the largest share of storm damage. Over the past 20 years, the cantons of Jura, Ticino, and Neuchâtel were especially affected, but also Nidwalden, Lucerne, Obwalden, Schwyz, Freiburg, and Bern were also impacted. Around half of all hail damage claims at AXA occurred in these nine cantons. “Major hail events in particular, which damage a high number of cars in a short amount of time, can be a significant driver of the cost of claims,” explains Patrick Villiger, Head of Motor Vehicle Claims at AXA. On the other hand, there was hardly any hail damage in the cantons of Schaffhausen, Geneva, Graubünden, Glarus, Wallis and Thurgau.
AXA’s statistics also show: Storm damage figures vary greatly. Since 1997, the annual costs of insurance in this area has varied between CHF 52 million (1998, 2008) and CHF 299 million (2021). Last year saw 38,000 cases and CHF 144 million in costs. Record years with over 40,000 claims and over CHF 150 million in costs were 1999, 2004, 2005, 2009, 2012, 2013, and the exceptional year 2021. There is no evidence of a trend – for that a significantly longer period of time would have to be reviewed. “However, we are observing that storms today occur at shorter notice than before and they have grown in intensity – more heavy rainfall, often larger hail size,” says Stefan Müller, Head of Claims at AXA. “This has created new risks. For example, heavy rain in densely populated areas can turn streets into dangerous rivers and veritably flood underground garages.”
In recent years, flood damage has occurred most frequently in the canton of Schwyz, followed by Thurgau, Lucerne, Solothurn, and Aargau. They account for over one-third of total claims reported to AXA for flood damage, although it should be noted that individual events outweighed most. The cantons of Nidwalden, Vaud, Uri, Graubünden, and Basel-Stadt have remained mostly free from flood damage over the past ten years. The figures also show that preventative measures from the federal government, cantons, and municipalities have had a positive impact on the amount of claims. “Investments in flood relief tunnels, retention basins, raised dams, or the nationwide flood risk map have paid off,” according to Stefan Müller.
When it comes to lightning damage, one canton tops the list by a considerable margin: Over the past ten years, the risk for damage from lightning was six times higher in Ticino than in the rest of Switzerland. Every year, AXA pays several hundred claims in this canton. Compared to Basel-Stadt, Nidwalden, and Vaud, the risk was over 30 times higher. It is not hard to understand why. When warm, humid air from the Mediterranean moves northward and hits the Alps, it forms storm clouds with strong upwinds and downwinds and a significant electrical charge, which is unleashed in the form of lightning.
If you take some precautions, you can minimize the risk of storm damage to your property. Apps are available that quickly send a push message whenever there's a weather warning in your location. If a storm with strong winds is on the way, you should make sure that movable items such as garden chairs are firmly secured or taken inside and that you retract your sunshades. If there's going to be heavy rain, you should also check that your drains aren't blocked and close your windows. When there's a risk of water leaking into the building, you should place all valuables and anything that's susceptible to water damage somewhere high up. In the case of hail, vehicles should be under covered parking and shutters raised. Stefan Müller explains: "Many people don't realize that hail can't really damage windows, but it can definitely damage shutters."
Damaged items could be covered under various insurance policies. Furniture and fittings are covered on a new-for-old basis under household contents insurance. Partial accidental damage insurance, meanwhile, covers storm damage to vehicles. In the case of building damage, building insurance, which in most regions runs through the canton, is responsible.