Majority of Calif. Wildfire Claims Resolved, Says IINC

February 24, 2004

A new insurer survey estimates that roughly three-quarters of claims stemming from the devastating October wildfires have been resolved.
A poll by the Insurance Information Network of California of insurers representing more than 65 percent of the homeowners insurance market found that they have paid and completed 8,955 of the 11,841 residential fire claims for a total of more than $1.05 billion. More than 19,000 insurance claims were filed following the fires.

“Fire survivors have done an outstanding job of working with their insurers to quickly file and resolve wildfire claims,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller. “And insurers, in turn, have responded.”

The survey tallied homeowners and auto insurance claims paid through Dec. 31, 2003. Surveyed companies also completed 860 of 928 auto insurance claims resulting from the fires for a total of $5.01 million.

With more than 3,500 homes lost to the firestorms, the majority of settled insurance claims are for so-called “partial losses,” or household damage caused by smoke or even firefighting materials. Those who lost their homes may still face a long road to recovery as they work with architects, contractors and insurance representatives. Some neighborhoods have already taken extraordinary steps to work together to reduce rebuilding costs and speed the recovery process.

For most of those who lost their homes, the new year marks a period when they must start setting a calendar of benchmark dates for decisions on rebuilding and completing insurance claims.

Over the next several months, fire survivors may face deadlines for replacing possessions lost in the fire, and should keep in mind completion dates for additional living expenses set out in their policy contracts as they schedule their rebuilding effort.

“Most fire survivors have already begun the process of rebuilding their lives by replacing lost possessions and planning their rebuilding process, however, they should consult with their insurance agent to confirm any upcoming deadlines for property replacement or additional living expense coverage,” Miller said.

Homeowners insurance policy contracts typically outline how much time policyholders have to replace damaged or destroyed property. If policyholders have replacement cost insurance, they may receive advance payments for the depreciated value for furniture, televisions, clothing and other household items. Once receipts have been provided to an insurer proving the items’ replacement, the policyholder may receive additional funds to cover the expense.

Insured fire survivors who have additional living expense coverage paying for temporary housing should also check their contracts and consult with their agents to confirm how long this coverage is available to them. This will also help them better plan a timeline for their rebuilding process.

Insured losses from the 2003 firestorms are expected to reach $2.03 billion and result in more than 19,000 homeowners, auto and commercial insurance claims.

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