ACIC: Calif. Ins. Department Overstates Complaints

October 27, 2004

Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) President Sam Sorich issued the following statement this week regarding the California Department of Insurance report on the Southern California wildfires of 2003:

“The Association of California Insurance Companies (ACIC) believes it is important to provide a balanced perspective on the Department of Insurance report released yesterday on the complaints filed against insurers after last year’s devastating Southern California wildfires.

“To use the department’s own figures, 18,636 post-fire claims were filed with insurers. Of that number, 676 – or 3.6 percent – of the claimants have filed complaints against their insurers with the department.

“Granted, one justified complaint from an unhappy policyholder is too many. But the percentage of complaints is relatively low considering the magnitude of the disaster and the numerous difficulties experienced during the recovery process, such as locating materials and builders.

“Insurers continue to work closely with their policyholders and we join with the department and others to find solutions to any problems arising from last year’s fires.”

Sorich continued by noting, “One of the issues highlighted by the department is underinsurance, which is the topic of 316 of the reported complaints to the department. That is less than 2 percent of the total claims filed.

“In the few cases where underinsurance may exist, a number of factors may be involved. For example, building materials and labor costs after a disaster increase to unusually high levels. Or, a policyholder may have failed to inform the insurer of major home improvements.

“Insurers are committed to the homeowners insurance market for the long haul. Therefore, it is important that insurers keep the claims process as problem-free as possible. It makes no financial or business sense for insurance companies to intentionally underinsure their customers.”

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