Insurers to Play Key Role in California's Recovery from Deadly Wildfires

Claims-filing has already begun for some residents, businesses and vehicle owners

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Kim Kirchner, Coburn Communication: (212)-536-9837; Kim.Kirchner@coburnww.com
California Press Office: (707) 490-9365; janetr@iii.org
New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; media@iii.org

ROHNERT PARK, CA, Nov. 12, 2018—Even as California’s Camp, Hill, and Woolsey Fires continue to rage, insurers who cover property in the communities affected by these wildfires are encouraging their customers to begin the claims-filing process, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).

In addition to causing fatalities, both fires have prompted mandatory evacuations. The Camp Fire has resulted in 50,000-plus Butte County residents being ordered to leave, and more than 180,000 people in Los Angeles and Ventura Counties have been told to leave the area. The Hill Fire’s (Ventura County) mandatory evacuation order was lifted, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

“Insurers’ mobile claim centers have been deployed to these counties,” said Janet Ruiz, the I.I.I.’s California-based representative. “These centers house insurance professionals who can guide customers through the claims-filing process as well as insurance adjusters who can assess the extent of a customer’s wildfire-caused property damage.”

The I.I.I. has outlined below the steps Californians impacted by these wildfires should take when interacting with their insurer and what wildfire-caused property damages are covered under standard homeowners, renters, business and vehicle insurance policies: 

1. Start the claims process as soon as possible

Be prepared to give your insurance professional—either an agent or insurance company representative—a description of the damage to your property and a copy of your home inventory, if you have one. Your insurance professional will either report the loss immediately to your insurer or to a qualified insurance adjuster who will contact you to arrange an inspection of the damage. Make sure you give your insurance professional a telephone number, preferably a cellphone, where you can be reached.
 

2. Review your insurance policy coverages and ask questions

When starting the claims filing and settlement process, find out:

  • Whether the damage is covered under the terms of your policy
  • The timeframe in which you must file a claim
  • How long it will take to process the claim
  • Whether you’ll need estimates for repairs
     

3. Learn what wildfire-caused damages are covered under different insurance policies

  • Homeowners and renters Damage caused by fire and smoke is covered under standard homeowners and renters insurance policies. Water losses, or damage caused by fire fighters while extinguishing a fire, is also covered under these policies.Standard homeowners and renters insurance policies also cover a policyholder’s Loss of Use (LOU)/Additional Living Expenses (ALE), when there is an insured disaster. The LOU/ALE policy provision typically covers rent or hotel bills, restaurant meals and other expenses (e.g., transportation) beyond what you’d customarily incur if either your home or rental unit was uninhabitable because of a covered event. Depending on the state in which you reside, LOU/ALE claims can also be filed if there is a mandatory evacuation, even if your residence was not damaged.
     
  • Landscaping and debris removal A typical homeowners insurance policy will cover wildfire-caused damage to trees, shrubs and plants for a dollar amount equal to no more than five percent of your policy’s Dwelling (Coverage A) benefits. The limit of insurance available per tree, shrub or plant is generally about $500.There is also coverage for debris removal. Depending on the homeowners insurance policy you purchased, the debris removal expenses for which you are reimbursed are usually either tied to the policy’s Dwelling (Coverage A) benefits or listed as a fixed dollar amount.
     
  • Business Owners Wildfire-caused property damage to businesses is typically covered under a business owners policy (BOP) or through a commercial multiple peril policy (CMP). Business income insurance, also known as business interruption, is typically included in either a BOP or CMP and provides coverage for:
    • Revenue lost due to the closure of the business
    • Fixed expenses, such as rent and utility costs
    • Expenses of operating the business from a temporary location
       
  • Vehicle Owners Vehicles damaged by fire, smoke, and soot are covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto insurance policy. Nearly four out of five U.S. drivers (78 percent) in the U.S. opted to purchase comprehensive coverage as of 2015, based on an I.I.I. analysis of National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) data.
     

If you are not in the affected areas, please consider donating to the Red Cross Disaster Relief or the Insurance Industry Charitable Foundation (IICF). IICF reopened their CA Wildfire Relief Campaign; 100% of contributions will benefit fire relief across the state.

 

RELATED LINKS

Articles:
How to Create a Home Inventory
Evacuation with Pets
Settling Insurance Claims After a Disaster

Facts and Statistics:
Wildfires

Issues Update:
Wildfires

Videos:
How to Plan an Evacuation
Evacuation: The 10 Minute Challenge
Four Ways to Prepare for a Disaster

 

The I.I.I. has a full library of educational videos on its You Tube Channel. Information about I.I.I. mobile apps can be found here.

THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.

Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org

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