Commissioner Lara issues emergency notice to help expedite insurance claims from California fires
News: 2019 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.
Survivors of the recent fires in Northern and Southern California face the long and painful task of recovery, which often includes trying to inventory lost possessions and reconstruct destroyed or missing documents.
“I have met with many wildfire survivors since taking office, and they need immediate help to start the rebuilding process, not red tape and unnecessary paperwork that adds to their problems,” said Commissioner Lara. “These expedited claims handling procedures will give policyholders the help they need, and I urge insurers to do the right thing for these survivors.”
Commissioner Lara is asking insurance companies to provide greater flexibility to survivors affected by wildfires across the state 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 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 of Insurance has issued similar notices after other devastating fires, including the Camp, Woolsey, and Hill fires in 2018. Virtually all insurers heeded the Commissioner’s call during previous fires when similar Notices were sent out. This notice is also in recognition of Governor Gavin Newsom’s declared states of emergencies related to the wildfires.
This notice builds on the Department’s recent actions to help California consumers facing wildfire risk.
Last week, Commissioner Lara ordered the FAIR Plan — California’s insurer of last resort — to help homeowners find adequate coverage by offering a comprehensive policy in addition to its current dwelling fire-only coverage by June 1, 2020, and taking other steps to modernize its options.
Commissioner Lara has met with more than 2,000 Californians at community roundtables in nine counties across the state to discuss wildfire insurance issues, and he mobilized the Department’s staff to help consumers at local assistance centers following the recent fires this year in Sonoma, Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Bernardino counties.
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- Notice of Expedited Claim Handling & Billing Grace Period Procedures for California Wildfires
- Expedited claims handling notices from 2018 and 2017.
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.