California wildfires continue to impact our state

Thomas, the historic California wildfire—the largest wildfire in California history—is fully contained after burning for over a month. With nearly $1.8 billion in insurance claims after the fires destroyed more than 1,000 structures and scorching 281,893 acres, the fire was devastating.

However, Thomas continues to impact our state. Beyond the issues of mudslides, air quality and watershed damage, property owners in fire-prone areas are finding it difficult to obtain affordable insurance. And in some cases, to find any insurance at all.

More than just Thomas in 2017

Though Thomas was the largest fire, there were nearly 9,000 fires in California during 2017. These fires did extensive amounts of damage as they burned 1.2 million acres and destroyed over 10,800 structures. 46 people lost their lives due to the fires.

Top 5 zip codes for fire loss

Certain areas seem to be hit the hardest when it comes to natural disasters. Insurance companies look at the hardest-hit areas and try to limit their exposure in these areas. According to one report, these are the areas with the most risk (notice that California occupies four out of the top five spots):

  1. Middletown, CA (95461)
  2. Mountain Ranch, CA (95246)
  3. Hidden Valley Lake, CA (95467)
  4. Mokelumne Hill, CA (95245)
  5. Colorado Springs, CO (80908)

Not so affordable insurance

A recent article found that several major insurance companies have stopped writing new policies or renewing plans in California’s most fire-prone regions. Insurance companies are using computer models that predict the likelihood of a fire destroying an insured home. Premiums are on the rise as well. Examples were found of homeowners seeing their insurance premiums rise from $800 – $1,000 jump up to $2,500 – $5,000 annually.

What if I have issues with a fire claim?

Your insurance policy is a contract. In exchange for your premiums, your insurance company has a legal obligation to provide coverage, keep the terms of your policy and pay any valid claims. Bad faith comes into the discussion when your insurance company fails to honor the contract. In California, bad faith can include: 

  • Unreasonable denial of policy benefits
  • Failing to respond or act promptly concerning a claim
  • Failure to provide prompt justification for the denial of a claim
  • Misrepresenting facts or policy provisions
  • Advising a claimant not to hire an attorney

If your insurance company denies your claim or reduces the amount paid for damage to your property, you have rights. An experienced insurance attorney can review your situation and advise you on the best course of action. Not all denied claims constitute bad faith, but if you suspect they are acting unreasonably or unfairly, consult with an attorney.

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