USA- LOS ANGELES, Calif. – With a forecast of winter weather bringing the possibility of floods, mudslides, debris flows, and other disasters to recent wildfire burn areas throughout the state, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara is alerting Californians to review their current insurance policies in order to protect themselves and their assets.
Commissioner Lara issued a formal Notice to insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damage from any future mudslide or similar disaster that is caused by recent wildfires that weakened hillsides. In particular, the United States Geological Survey (USGS) has projected increased likelihood of debris flow for fire-scarred areas of the state in the event of heavy rainfall.
Many Californians may not be aware that homeowners’ and commercial insurance policies typically exclude flood, mudslide, debris flow, and other similar disasters—unless they are directly or indirectly caused by a recent wildfire or another peril covered by the applicable insurance policy. The Department of Insurance has posted a fact sheet for consumers to answer questions about what their policies cover.
“Winter weather is bringing the threat of a second catastrophe to wildfire survivors like we saw in Montecito in 2018, and it’s critical to be prepared,” said Commissioner Lara. “Before disaster strikes, I am alerting insurance companies to their obligation to cover any mudslide, debris flow, or other damage that is caused by our recent wildfires so that people can recover quickly.”
The Montecito mudslide in Santa Barbara County in January 2018 that followed the destructive Thomas Fire claimed 23 lives and caused more than $421 million in damage, according to Department of Insurance data. Following that disaster, the Department of Insurance issued a notice to insurance companies about their requirement to pay mudslide claims that are directly or indirectly caused by the wildfires.
This time, due to the scale of the 2020 wildfires across the state, the Department of Insurance preemptively issued today’s Notice to all property and casualty insurance companies to ensure consumers are protected.
Commissioner Lara also urged consumers to take the following steps to prepare for the winter storm season:
Consider flood insurance in addition to their homeowners’ insurance policy. The National Flood Insurance Program currently provides the majority of flood coverage written in the state, but private flood insurance is also available.
Use their smart phone to perform a home inventory to create a record of their belongings and store scans of important documents that they can easily access.
Locate their insurance papers and put in a safe place or upload to an online location.
For renters, consider purchasing renters’ insurance to protect their personal belongings, which typically are not covered by their landlord’s homeowners policy.
Consider comprehensive auto insurance, which would protect their vehicle in the event of flood damage.