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Butte and Valley fire insurers agree to voluntary claim handling reforms to speed victim recovery

News: 2015 Press Release

For Release: October 14, 2015
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
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Butte and Valley fire insurers agree to voluntary claim handling reforms to speed victim recovery
Participating insurers represent 90 percent of burn area’s claims

SACRAMENTO, Calif. - Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones obtained agreements from insurers handling Valley and Butte wildfire damage claims to help fire victims begin their recovery more quickly.

With more than 5,000 homes damaged and destroyed in the Valley and Butte fires, thousands of residents face the long and painful task of recovery, which often includes trying to reconstruct destroyed or missing documents.

In an effort to speed that recovery, insurers representing 90 percent of the claims resulting from the fires have agreed to claims handling reforms requested by Jones that will bring more timely payments and flexibility with some of the deadlines and documentation typically required by insurers.

"Expediting the insurance claim process is the right thing to do," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "I applaud the effort insurers have made to streamline claim handling and pay consumers quickly, so fire victims may begin to put their lives back together."

After such destructive wildfires, policyholders often find many of the things the insurance company needs to process their claim are missing or were destroyed in the fire, such as home inventories and vehicle ownership papers. Under this agreement, policyholders may receive advance payment for up to four months of additional living expenses, 25 percent of policy limits for personal property, and expedite the process for debris removal-a first step in rebuilding.

In addition to the more than 5,000 property claims, more than 1,000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the fires. Insurers have also agreed to speed payment for damaged or destroyed vehicles and provide at least 30 days billing leniency for lost renewal notices or those who do not have the ability to have their mail forwarded.

Immediately following the fires, Commissioner Jones visited the burn areas to survey the damage, meet with residents, make sure insurers were on-site taking claims, and to talk to CDI staff who were on site assisting residents. The commissioner also met with state fire and emergency management and local officials. Jones mobilized the department's resources to make sure consumers had access to the assistance and support the department provides, such as helping consumers navigate the recovery process.

He also directed the department's law enforcement team to meet with residents and educate them on how to avoid scam artists who prey on vulnerable victims. When the local assistance centers opened, the Department's consumer services team was on hand to assist consumers-they are still there today.

Policyholders who need assistance with their claim or have questions, may contact the Department of Insurance Consumer hotline at 800-927-4357 or visit the department's website for tips and advice.

The following is a list of Insurers participating so far in the voluntary policy reforms. Other insurers may respond to the department's request. To find out if your insurer is participating, please call Consumer Services at 800-927-4357.

Media notes:

  • CSAA Insurance Group (AAA Northern California)
  • Farmers Insurance Group (Including Foremost)
  • Hartford Fire &Casualty Group
  • State Farm Mutual Group
  • United Services Automobile Association Group (USAA)
  • Link to the voluntary claim reform agreement.
  • Photos of Commissioner Jones' visit to the Butte and Valley burn zones and of the department's post-fire activity.

The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $289 billion in premiums annually in California. Since 2011 the California Department of Insurance received more than 1,000,000 calls from consumers and helped recover over $469 million in claims and premiums. Please visit the Department of Insurance web site at Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800.927.HELP or 213.897.8921. Telecommunications Devices for the Deaf (TDD), please dial 800.482.4833.

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