Industry NewsNews Brief

Property lost to California wildfires exceeds $1B

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Dave Jones, California Insurance Commissioner

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones released preliminary data reflecting $1.045 billion in property losses as a result of the Northern California wildfires. The data was gathered by eight California insurers processing claims filed by tens of thousands of policyholders reporting the loss of commercial and residential structures, personal and commercial vehicles, and agricultural equipment.

More than 7,000 structures have been damaged or destroyed, and as more residents leave evacuation centers to return home, access the damage and file claims, those preliminary numbers are expected to rise. (Those returning home can check this fire map to see if their area is accessible.)

“These numbers are just the beginning of the story as one of the deadliest and costliest wildfire catastrophes in California’s history,” said Jones in a statement. “The tragic death of 42 people and over a billion in property losses are numbers-behind these numbers are thousands of people who’ve been traumatized by unfathomable loss. We must do all we can to ease their pain and help them recover and rebuild.”

Commissioner Jones has been doing everything in his power to facilitate the situation for victims, including dispatching his consumer services team to all local assistance centers, personally meeting with people and helping them start claims, and answering questions about available resources.

Jones issued a notice last week to insurers requesting they expedite claims: “In an effort to assist victims of the recent wildfires, Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones is calling on all property insurance companies to implement emergency voluntary claims reforms to help victims begin their recovery more quickly,” the notice read.

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Specifically, insurers were called on to cut through red tape that might delay the claims process, including forgoing requirements for specific documentation. He also requested that insurers grant a 30-day billing grace period for those in designated wildfire areas.

Jones’s emergency declaration has allowed California insurers to obtain help from out-of-state claims adjusters, which also helps expedite the claims process, the recovery process and the rebuilding process.

Jones offered a word of caution in the data release to all victims: “Be careful to check the license of contractors who solicit business — this is done quickly on the Contractors State License Board using a smart device,” said the release.

Commissioner Jones is also keeping a watchful eye on the Santa Cruz fire that broke on Monday and poses danger to over 300 homes.

Email Fabiana Gordon.