Commissioner Lara alerts Californians about coverage for floods and mudslides caused by wildfires
News: 2023 Press Release
LOS ANGELES — With powerful winter storms increasing the threat of mudslides, especially for people in wildfire burn areas who are even more vulnerable, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara issued a formal Notice to insurance companies reminding them of their legal duty to cover damage from any future mudslide or similar disaster that is caused by recent wildfires that weakened hillsides.
Many people may not be aware that homeowners’ and commercial insurance policies typically exclude flood, mudslide, debris flow, and other similar disasters — unless they are directly or indirectly caused by a recent wildfire or another peril covered by the applicable insurance policy. The Department of Insurance has posted a fact sheet for consumers to answer questions about what their policies cover.
“With continued winter storms threatening areas already damaged by wildfires, it’s critical to know how you are protected especially if you are living in a more vulnerable area,” said Commissioner Lara, who created the California Climate Insurance Working Group focused on long-term solutions to combat climate change, including reducing risks to vulnerable communities as a result of strong storms, atmospheric rivers, and flooding. “I am alerting insurance companies to follow California law requiring they cover any mudslide, debris flow, or other damage that is caused by our recent wildfires so that people can recover quickly.”
The Montecito mudslide in Santa Barbara County in January 2018 that followed the destructive Thomas Fire claimed 23 lives and caused more than $421 million in damage, according to Department of Insurance data. Following that disaster, then-Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. enacted a new law to help prevent confusion about coverage following mudslides.
Due to the scale of previous wildfires across the state and the current and potential flooding, the Department of Insurance preemptively issued today’s Notice to all property and casualty insurance companies to ensure consumers are protected.
Commissioner Lara also urged consumers to take the following steps to prepare for the winter storm season:
- Use their smart phone to perform a home inventory to create a record of their belongings and store scans of important documents that they can easily access.
- Locate their insurance papers and put in a safe place or upload to an online location.
- For renters, consider purchasing renters’ insurance to protect their personal belongings, which typically are not covered by their landlord’s homeowners’ policy.
- Consider comprehensive auto insurance, which would protect their vehicle in the event of flood damage.
- Visit the Governor’s Office of Emergency Services (CalOES) “winter wise” web page to read more tips to prepare for winter weather.
- Consider flood insurance for future disasters in addition to their homeowners’ insurance policy. TheNational Flood Insurance Program currently provides the majority of flood coverage written in the state, but private flood insurance is also available. Flood insurance takes effect 30 days after it is purchased, except in the case of a home purchase where flood insurance is required by the lender.
The Department of Insurance can help consumers with insurance coverage or claim questions. Contact us at our consumer hotline at 800-927-4357 or through online chat or email at insurance.ca.gov.
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- Link to Notice
- Coverage for Flood, Mudflow, Mudslide, Debris Flow, Landslide, or other Similar Event After a Wildfire Fact Sheet
- Flood Insurance Fact Sheet
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.