Commissioner Lara issues emergency notice to expedite insurance claims and help survivors of California fires
News: 2020 Press Release
SACRAMENTO, Calif. – Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara today issued an emergency Notice to all property and casualty insurance companies doing business in California, requesting they expedite claims handling for California wildfire survivors in order to help them begin the recovery and rebuilding process more quickly.
Residents and businesses across the state face the long and painful task of recovery, which often includes finding temporary living arrangements for their family and trying to inventory lost possessions and reconstruct destroyed or missing documents.
"Wildfire survivors need immediate help as they start on the long road to recovery," said Commissioner Lara. "These emergency expedited claims handling procedures will help policyholders as they begin to rebuild their lives and their homes. I urge insurance companies to do the right thing for these survivors and help them through this difficult process."
Commissioner Lara is asking insurance companies to provide greater flexibility to survivors affected by the wildfires with some deadlines and documentation typically required to pay claims, including:
- Minimum four-month advance payment of Loss of Use, Fair Rental Value, or Additional Living Expenses
- Minimum 60-day billing grace period to allow for lost or destroyed renewal notices
- Advance payment of at least 25% of policy limits for personal property—without the completion of an inventory
- Accepting any inventory form that contains substantially the same information as a company-specific form
- Accepting an inventory that includes groupings of personal property, such as clothing, shoes, books, or food items rather than listing each individual item
- Expediting payment of vehicle damage claims covered under comprehensive loss coverage
- Cooperating with consolidated debris removal efforts coordinated through city, county, and state agencies, unless the insurer can provide more rapid debris removal outside of this effort
The Department has issued similar notices after other devastating wildfires, including the Kincade fire last year, and the Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in 2018. Virtually all insurers heeded the Commissioner's call during previous wildfires when similar Notices were sent out. This Notice is also in recognition of Governor Gavin Newsom's declared state of emergency related to the wildfires on August 18.
This year, Commissioner Lara is sponsoring Senate Bill 872 authored by Senator Bill Dodd, which codifies most of the consumer protections in this Notice, including the advance payment of no less than 25 percent of a policy limit for lost contents without submission of an inventory form. The bill also expands the scope of additional living expense coverage in homeowners' insurance policies after a declared wildfire emergency and clarifies policyholder rights if the policyholder decides to relocate rather than rebuild the destroyed home. The bill is currently in the California State Senate pending concurrence in Assembly amendments before it goes to Governor Newsom for his consideration.
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- Link to Notice
- Expedited claims handling notices from 2019 and 2018
- Department of Insurance wildfire resources page
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.