Jones issues formal notice to insurers regarding mudslide coverage for homeowners
News: 2018 Press Release
SANTA BARBARA, Calif. — Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today issued a formal notice to all property and casualty insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damages from the recent mudslide and debris flows if it is determined that the ravaging of hillsides and vegetation by the Thomas and other fires was the efficient proximate cause of the mudslides. In general homeowners' insurance policies, excludes flood, mudslide, debris flow and other similar events.
However, Jones put insurers on notice that both the Insurance Code and case law have established the legal doctrine of "efficient proximate cause" which means if the facts show the Thomas Fire, a covered peril, was the efficient proximate cause of the subsequent mudflow, mudslides, debris flow, landslide, or other similar event, then damage caused by those events should be covered under the property owner's insurance policy.
"Californians have suffered greatly with all of the devastating losses from wildfires that struck the state in the last three months of 2017," said Commissioner Jones. "Preliminary indications are that the Thomas Fire burned vegetation which would otherwise have absorbed rainfall and held soils in place, which in turn resulted in the mudflows, mudslides, debris flows or landslides. If the evidence shows the Thomas Fire or another peril covered by a homeowner's insurance policy was the efficient proximate cause of mudflow damage, I expect insurance companies to step up and cover these financial losses."
Insurance Commissioner Jones is encouraging residents and business owners in Santa Barbara County affected by the mudslides, to file a claim with their insurance company. If consumers have issues navigating the claims process, or they think their claim was wrongfully denied they should contact the Department of Insurance at 800-927-4357 or online at www.insurance.ca.gov for assistance.
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Led by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara, the California Department of Insurance is the consumer protection agency for the nation's largest insurance marketplace and safeguards all of the state’s consumers by fairly regulating the insurance industry. Under the Commissioner’s direction, the Department uses its authority to protect Californians from insurance rates that are excessive, inadequate, or unfairly discriminatory, oversee insurer solvency to pay claims, set standards for agents and broker licensing, perform market conduct reviews of insurance companies, resolve consumer complaints, and investigate and prosecute insurance fraud. Consumers are urged to call 1-800-927-4357 with any questions or contact us at www.insurance.ca.gov via webform or online chat. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.