It probably won’t surprise you to learn that 2011 was a record year for natural disasters in the U.S. According to the Insurance Information Institute (the “I.I.I.”), insurance companies will pay more than $32 billion in claims to help people rebuild homes and businesses damaged or destroyed by natural disasters in 2011, a record year for federal disaster declarations. Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the I.I.I., said that “[t]he $32.6 billion figure doesn’t even include the significant insured losses which arose after the pre-Halloween snowstorm, which caused enormous damage to multiple states along the Atlantic seaboard. Coupled with other events in 2011’s fourth quarter, direct insured losses could exceed $35 billion this year.”

Additionally, the I.I.I. reports that the federal government declared on 99 separate occasions this year that a major disaster existed after a natural disaster had occurred, easily breaking the previous record of 81, which was set in 2010. The 99 disaster declarations are nearly triple the average of 34 per year dating back to 1953, the I.I.I. added.

The federal National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (“NOAA”) announced that the U.S. was the site of 12 separate disasters, each of which caused at least $1 billion in aggregate damage in 2011. The previous record, set in 2008, was nine.

With all of these new records, you would think that the private insurance industry would be in a lot of trouble. Not so. According to the I.I.I., policyholders’ surplus –insurers’ net worth measured according to Statutory Accounting Principles – fell only four percent to $538.6 billion as of September 30, 2011, compared to $559.2 billion at year-end 2010. You read that right. Even though the insurance industry experienced one of its worst years ever, their net worth dropped by a mere 4%.

For more information, including a list of the 12 separate billion dollar disasters click here.