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Commissioner Lara issues emergency notice to expedite insurance claims and help survivors of California fires

News: 2020 Press Release

For Release: August 26, 2020
Media Calls Only: 916-492-3566
Email Inquiries: cdipress@insurance.ca.gov
Commissioner Lara issues emergency notice to expedite insurance claims and help survivors of California fires

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.

The Department has resources available for wildfire survivors. Those seeking assistance should contact the Department at 800-927-4357 or at www.insurance.ca.gov.  
 

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Media Notes:



The California Department of Insurance, established in 1868, is the largest consumer protection agency in California. Insurers collect $310 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 website at www.insurance.ca.gov. Non-media inquiries should be directed to the Consumer Hotline at 800-927-4357. Teletypewriter (TTY), please dial 800-482-4833.

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