Survey: Majority of October’s California Wildfire Claims Settled

April 23, 2008

A new survey of insurance companies estimates that nearly 90 percent of claims stemming from the devastating October 2007 fire and wind storms in California have been settled.

A poll by the Insurance Information Network of California of companies representing nearly two-thirds of California’s homeowner insurance market found that they have settled 29,954 of their 33,789 residential claims from the October catastrophe. To date, those claims have resulted in more than $1.27 billion worth of claims settlements among the surveyed companies, which expect those claims to ultimately total $1.47 billion, IINC said.

By comparison, roughly 86 percent of claims from the 2003 wildfires had been settled by April 2004, according to a previous IINC survey. The 2003 wildfires resulted in the destruction of 3,600 homes and the filing of 19,100 insurance claims valued at $2.04 billion. Although about 1,400 fewer homes burned in the 2007 conflagration, the wind and fire storms resulted in a much greater number of claims.

In January, the California Department of Insurance estimated that the fires alone resulted in more than 33,000 claims valued at an estimated $2 billion. The dramatic increase is largely attributed to claims for lodging expenses during the mandatory evacuation of much of San Diego County.

“Though it can be a long road from insurance claim to move-in, fire survivors, insurers and contractors are moving with unprecedented speed to recover from this catastrophe,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller.

The survey tallied brushfire and wind-related homeowners insurance claims settled. Wind storms which fanned the flames also resulted in thousands of insurance claims, and could not always be separated from fire claims in the data request. Insurance claims are considered “settled” when the policyholder agrees to a financial settlement on their claim. It is only closed after a home is rebuilt, cleared inspections and ready to be moved into.
Auto insurance claims were not surveyed in the most recent poll.

The majority of disaster insurance claims are typically 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, planning departments and insurance representatives.

The Insurance Information Network of California is a non-profit, non-lobbying trade association supported by the property and casualty insurance industry.

Source: IINC

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