Under pressure from state Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, many insurance companies have agreed to make additional payments for personal property lost in the North Bay fires without requiring policyholders to fill out a detailed inventory.
Jones called on insurers last month to provide North Bay fire victims up to 100 percent of their personal property coverage limits without itemizing their losses, citing the emotional and physical toll that fire victims were undergoing. He asked them to reply by Jan. 8 on whether they would comply with his request.
Thirty-four insurers responded to his office and said they would pay at least 50 percent or more on claims for personal property losses without an itemized list.
Ten carriers said they would offer less than 50 percent or did not agree to make any policy changes. Three companies did not respond to Jones’ request.
The department said carriers that have bumped up their coverage represent 97 percent of the total loss claims from the fires, the costliest in American history with about $9 billion in insured losses.
In the immediate aftermath of the fires, most insurers reached a voluntary agreement with Jones to advance at least 25 percent of their personal property coverage without itemization to quickly help fire victims rebuild their lives.
But Jones pushed for them to do more given the unprecedented circumstances of the October fires. In Sonoma County, there were $7 billion in claims, according to the department, including claims for 4,785 insured homes destroyed in the fires.
Jones said he was moved to act as his department heard that some carriers were paying out 100 percent for personal property without itemization. Some policyholders of CSAA Insurance Group, for example, reported receiving a complete payout for personal property without an inventory. CSAA last month said there has been no policy change on how it handles personal property claims, though it acknowledged “there was some miscommunication” that might have led some of its policyholders to believe there was a policy change.
“We know some of the insurers have done this (100 percent) and I concluded they could and should do it,” Jones said in a interview Wednesday.
The department said many insurers have agreed to pay at least 75 percent of personal property coverage limits without a list and some have even agreed to 100 percent. It declined to release a list detailing insurers’ responses to its survey, saying the responses were confidential and not covered under the California Public Records Act.
The 34 carriers who pledged to provide at least 50 percent or more include State Farm General Insurance Co., Farmers Group (including Foremost), CSAA, Liberty Mutual/Safeco, Allied/Nationwide, USAA, Travelers, Allstate, Encompass, Hartford, California Capital, Homesite, Chubb, Auto Club of Southern California, American Modern, Aegis Security, National General, Mercury, AIG, Ameriprise, QBE, FAIR Plan, TOPA, Universal North America, First American Title, Western Mutual, Wawanesa, Stillwater Insurance, Horace Mann, Kemper, Cincinnati, Hyundai, AMICA Mutual and MAPFRE.
The 10 who answered less than 50 percent or made no changes were Grange, Assurant, California Casualty, American Global, Zenith, Electric, American National Finance Group, Metropolitan, Oregon Mutual and Civil Service Employee Group. Pacific Specialty, Progressive and Armed Forces Insurance Exchange did not respond to the request Wednesday.
The department on Jan. 22 updated its list and noted that four more insurers have agreed to provide at least 50 percent or more for payout without itemization: Civil Service Employee Group, California Casualty, Progressive, and Armed Forces Insurance Exchange. A representative for Armed Forces Insurance Exchange said the carrier is paying the full 100 percent of personal property coverage limits on claims without an itemized list.
Read all of the PD's fire coverage here