California State Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a notice to insurers asking them to agree to expedited claims handling procedures for wildfire damage claims in order to help fire victims more quickly. Several insurers immediately agreed to the Commissioner’s request to follow expedited claimed handling procedures.
With thousands of homes damaged and destroyed by dozens of wildfires blazing across the state, thousands of residents face the long and painful task of recovery, which often includes trying to reconstruct destroyed or missing documents.
In an effort to speed recovery, Commissioner Jones asked home insurers with policyholders in the areas hit by fires to agree to claims handling procedures that will bring more timely payments and flexibility with some of the deadlines and documentation typically required by insurers.
“Victims of these devastating wildfires need all the help we can provide,” said Commissioner Jones. “I am asking California insurers to adopt these expedited claims handling procedures to get help to policyholders more quickly. I applaud the California insurers who, in response to our request, immediately agreed to adopt expedited claims handling procedures and expect more insurers will also agree to these expedited procedures, so fire victims may begin to put their lives back together.”
After destructive wildfires, policyholders often find many of the things the insurance company needs to process their claim are missing or were destroyed in the fire, such as home inventories, receipts, bills of sale, and vehicle ownership papers. Under these expedited claims handling procedures, policyholders may receive advance payment for up to four months of additional living expenses, 25 percent of policy limits for personal property, and an expedited process for debris removal – a first step in rebuilding.
These procedures speed payment for damaged or destroyed vehicles and provide at least 30 days billing leniency for lost renewal notices or those who do not have the ability to have mail forwarded.
Commissioner Jones also declared an emergency exists in California, which allows insurance companies to use out of state adjusters to respond more quickly to the losses arising out of these wildfires. Jones also mobilized the department’s resources to make sure consumers had access to the consumer assistance and support the department provides to help consumers navigate the insurance claims process.
Commissioner Jones recently visited the Santa Rosa burn areas to survey the damage, meet with residents, make sure insurers are on-site taking claims, and to meet with California Department of Insurance staff who were deployed on-site to assist residents. CDI staff is participating in Local Assistance Centers established in fire areas throughout the state.
He also directed the department’s law enforcement team to deploy to areas hit by fires to educate residents on how to avoid scam artists who prey on vulnerable victims.