A wildfire is one of the worst types of natural disasters that can hit any part of California. And it’s one of those natural disasters that you never see coming and cannot properly prepare to minimize damage and losses.
And yet, there are insurance companies that don’t shy away from giving false information to wildfire survivors in Los Angeles and other affected areas. Some insurers engage in unfair insurance claim practices and violate California’s laws, Los Angeles unfair insurance claim practice attorney Howard Craig Kornberg warns.
As wildfires across Southern California continue to grow and burn hundreds of homes to the ground, attorneys echo an unsettling warning stemming from the unfortunate experience of October’s blazes in Northern California.
How insurance companies violated California laws
Late last month, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a solemn warning to all wildfire survivors across California in a news release. Mr. Jones warned that some of the out-of-state insurance adjusters that were brought on board to help handle the enormous amount of claims following the devastating fires in Northern California, provided some claimants with incorrect information about insurance claims.
The unfair and illegal conduct on the part of the out-of-state adjusters triggered state-wide confusion and resulted in inadequate claim settlements for the affected wildfire survivors.
Mr. Jones has not elaborated on how many wildfire survivors have been affected as a result of misinformation. Part of the reason why the out-of-state insurance companies were misinforming wildfire survivors was that they weren’t properly trained and had little knowledge of California’s insurance laws.
Insurance laws vary from one state to another, which is why the out-of-state claims adjusters assigned to wildfire claims in the aftermath of an emergency situation weren’t aware of specifics of California laws, our unfair insurance claim practice attorneys at the Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg explain.
Authorities found out about the illegal conduct on the part of some insurance adjusters after receiving countless complaints from wildfire survivors, public officials, and others that noticed how some insurance adjusters handled claims regarding wildfires.
Why were out-of-state adjusters allowed to handle wildfire claims?
As a result, Californian authorities directed all out-of-state insurance adjusters brought in to handle the massive amount of claims – many of which weren’t even licensed to handle claims in California – to undergo proper training on the California Unfair Practices Act, Fair Claims Settlement Practices Regulations, and learn the state’s laws regarding property and casualty insurance claims handling.
Some Californians may wonder why untrained, out-of-state adjusters, who have little to no knowledge about Californian laws, were allowed to operate in California in the first place.
Our Los Angeles unfair insurance claim practice lawyers explain that without the out-of-state insurance adjusters, it would take local insurance companies many months or years to review and settle all the wildfire claims stemming from the Northern California fires.
What false information was given to California wildfire survivors?
Some of the false information given to policyholders included but weren’t limited to:
- Telling claimants that they had between six and 12 months to obtain full rebuilding costs (while in a state of emergency in California, claimants must wait no less than 24 months)
- Telling policyholders they would not receive full replacement benefits if they chose to rebuild their property in another location (while under California law, claimants are allowed to choose to rebuild their home in the same location, another location or even buy an already built property in a new location)
- Telling claimants that additional living expense benefits would expire in 12 months (however, California law gives a different time frame: up to 24 months in a state of emergency).
Could this happen to Southern California wildfire survivors?
The currently raging Thomas Fire, the largest out of six other wildfires wreaking havoc in Southern California in recent weeks, is only about 25 percent contained as of Thursday, December 14, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Fact: the Thomas Fire, which is being fueled by some of the strongest Santa Ana winds in recent memory, has been named the biggest wildfire in Los Angeles since the Bel-Air fire in 1961.
Given the destructive power and the difficulties in containing the raging wildfires in Southern Californian, local insurance companies have once again brought in out-of-state adjusters to handle the mounting amount of claims from wildfire survivors.
If your property has been affected by the Thomas Fire – or any other blaze – in recent weeks, or there is a high risk of the wildfires reaching your home, consult our unfair insurance claim practice attorneys at Law Offices of Howard Craig Kornberg to:
- Maximize your coverage cost
- Make sure the insurer is reviewing your claim according to California laws
- Ensure that your claim is being settled in your best interests.