Devastating Wildfires Spur Legislative Action
Why insurance can be your adversary after a natural disaster
The news was plagued with images of Hell on Earth as fires ripped through Northern and Southern California. The fires were relentless, leaving smoking chimneys as the only remnants of multi-million dollar homes. The California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reportsThe devastation is utterly unfathomable. Many wildfire victims had only minutes to evacuate their homes losing everything but the clothes on their back and few mementos they could grab before leaving. As the dust begins to settle for those greatest affected by this destruction, the reality hits that those who are supposed to make you whole again may not have your best interest in mind.
California Lawmakers take Action
Eight bills have been submitted to California legislators regarding insurance companies’ relationship with victims. Legislators were flooded with phone calls from citizens who were being inundated with misinformation and the inability to recover money to rebuild their homes. Insurance adjusters told many that they did not have enough insurance to cover rebuilding. Some were given false information about their rights after a total loss of their residence. Complaints about out-of-state adjusters not knowing California law filled the phone lines. Many of the bills focus on requiring insurance companies to cover full replacement costs and would make it difficult for insurers to cancel policies or reduce coverage in areas at highest risk for wildfires.
A recent article in the Los Angeles Times follows several wildfire victims who have lost everything and are now in battles with their insurance companies to get recovery. The insurance companies have become their adversary, giving out false information about their coverage including their rights to recovery. According to a lawsuit filed by the victims, adjusters flooded in from out-of-state, “most failed to register, worked unsupervised and did not know California law.”
Adjusters put on Notice
Complaints from survivors prompted California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones to issue a formal notice. In the statement, Jones stated “all claims adjusters assigned to wildfire claims, including those not licensed in California, are properly trained on the California Unfair Practices Act, Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations and all laws relating to property and casualty insurance claims handling.
The Commissioner pointed out that many survivors of the wildfires were told blatantly false statements, including:
- Incorrect time frames – survivors were told that they had only 6 -12 months to collect full replacement cost to rebuild when California law requires that they are given at least 24 months in a state of emergency.
- Incorrect rebuilding location recovery – policyholders were told that they would be unable to receive full replacement benefits if they did not rebuild in the same location. California law allows for a survivor to rebuild in a new location or choose a home that is already built.
- Incorrect living expense coverage – claimants were informed that their living expense would only be allocated for 12 months when California law allows up to 24 months after a state of emergency.
How Attorneys Can Help
Given the frustrating state of affairs and the slow legislative process, the best advice for anyone affected by a natural disaster is to contact an attorney. The interests of a policyholder and their insurance company are naturally at odds. The conflict comes down to financial interests. The more that the insurance company has to pay out, the less they make in profits. An attorney can help you understand your rights. They can help you negotiate your claim and fight for what you deserve. Unfortunately, your adjuster may not be giving you accurate information. The California Department of Insurance found that many adjusters did not know California law after a state of emergency is declared by an official. Many were poorly trained and gave false information about policyholder benefits. An attorney will fight to make you whole again and will not rest until you get the recovery that you deserve.
If you or a loved one has been affected by the recent wildfires contact Amicus Media Group immediately. We work with attorneys from across California that can help you understand your rights and get you the recovery you deserve.
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