Asbestos to date has triggered losses of $100 billion for the insurance industry—and the losses are expected to mount. In short, it is the most expensive lesson learned for the industry in decades.

Executive Summary

Asbestos—yes, asbestos—is on Swiss Re Institute's radar screen as one of the next big risks to impact the insurance industry. Risks of human failure caused by lack of sleep are another, according to Institute Director Jeffrey Bohn, who summarizes those two items from the Institute's most recent SONAR report of emerging risks.

While the insurance industry was concentrating on pricing, statistics and actuarial controls, it missed the development of a chain of asbestos claims that were in plain sight.

The Warning Signs Were There

Very early on, it was reported that workers in contact with asbestos had developed disease. Research also began to link certain diseases to asbestos once the pattern became apparent. And still the insurance industry continued to write policy after policy, piling limit onto limit, until it was too late.

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