California wildfires prompt regulator action
The California Department of Insurance has issued a notice to insurers asking them to agree to expedite wildfire claims handling and adopt a billing grace period.
Most insurers agreed to the commissioner's request to follow expedited claims handling procedures after the October wildfires in Northern California. The commissioner expects insurers to agree to these procedures for the Southern California wildfires.
With thousands of homes damaged and destroyed by wildfires blazing across the state, 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, California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones asked insurers with policyholders in the areas hit by fires to agree to claims handling procedures to bring more timely payments and flexibility with some of the deadlines and documentation typically required by insurers.
"These fires are exacting a devastating emotional and financial toll on residents across the state," said Jones. "Victims need every resource available to them as quickly as possible, which is why I am asking California insurers to adopt these expedited claims handling procedures to get help to policyholders. I strongly encourage California insurers to adopt these procedures to help fire victims begin to put their lives back together."
After destructive wildfires, policyholders often find much of what 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 the commissioner's 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.
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