California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says insurers have received nearly 45,000 insurance claims totaling more than $11.79 billion in losses from the wildfires that roared across the state in October and December 2017. The fires damaged and destroyed over 32,000 homes, 4,300 businesses and more than 8,200 vehicles, watercraft, farm vehicles, and other equipment.
Worse. They killed a lot people. The official count is 44 but Commissioner Jones says the number is 45.
“At nearly $12 billion in insured losses, these claim numbers are staggering and represent the costliest fires in California history. The fires were unprecedented for their severity and disastrous consequences. Whole neighborhoods were wiped out, as wind-driven flames destroyed thousands of homes, upended tens of thousands of residents' lives and tragically killed more than 45 people across the state,” Jones said.
Jones issued a formal notice to insurers asking them to waive the requirement for policyholders to submit a detailed home inventory and pay up to 100% of contents coverage to spare survivors the arduous task of trying to recreate lists of every item they lost in the fires.
Many have complied.
That — however— is not enough. Sen. Mike McGuire represents the Santa Rosa area and other areas heavily damaged by the fires. He has introduced legislation in the California Legislature requiring insurance companies to waive the paperwork and extend coverage. McGuire says making people do a detailed list makes them “relive the most horrific night of their lives. It’s simply too much to ask.”
His bill requires insurers to pay at least 80% of the coverage limit without homeowners or renters providing insurers an itemized list.
While it’s not going to help current victims, Jones agrees with McGuire, “The laws in place now need to be strengthened. Californians hard hit by these disasters should not be hung up by insurance company red tape as they rebuild their lives.”
BTW, it has to be noted that Jones is now running for California’s Attorney General office.
Insurers — of course — don’t agree and will likely fight the legislation. Mark Sektnan is the vice president of government relations for the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI). He said insurers need to keep control of costs to remain solvent and to be able to continue to sell policies in California.
Part of that cost control is a detailed list of items lost. “Our goal is to develop measures that will protect policyholders and improve the recovery process without creating unintended consequences that damage California’s highly competitive homeowners insurance marketplace,” Sektnan said.
Other bills being introduced in California are those that will give people more time to rebuild homes and that means more reimbursement dollars for alternative living arrangements.
On another topic, RMS says California’s Thomas Fire will end up with $1 billion to $2.5 billion in insurance losses.
Source links: Insurance Journal, Associated Press