Sacramento, CA – Last October, the lives of tens of thousands of North Bay residents were changed forever, when the North Bay Fire Storm destroyed over 6,000 homes, thousands of other businesses and structures burned down and dozens tragically passed away.
North Bay families are struggling to rebuild their lives from this horrific disaster and many are now challenged by the burdensome policies of their insurance companies. According to a recent survey, 66 percent of families impacted by the North Bay Fires report being underinsured and 47 percent report being underinsured on the contents portion of their claim. To make matters worse, 60 percent of families have not settled their contents and 80 percent have yet to settle their structure.
Three bills authored by North Bay Senators Bill Dodd and Mike McGuire, who represent the fire-damaged areas will be decided by the Senate Insurance Committee Wednesday, and are facing stiff opposition from a powerful insurance lobby.
SB 894, SB 897 and SB 1291 would bring much needed relief for consumers and reforms to the insurance industry. Senator Dodd’s SB 894 protects families when disaster strikes by placing new requirements on insurance companies. It guarantees up to three years of coverage for living expenses and requires insurers to renew policies for up to two years following a disaster. Non-renewals must be reported to the Insurance Commissioner. It also allows families to combine coverage categories. For example, if the cost to rebuild a house exceeds limits of the plan, families can apply unused contents coverage. Senator McGuire’s SB 897 would waive inventory claim form requirements (an itemized contents list) during a governor-declared state of emergency, allowing homeowners the option of foregoing the itemization and instead automatically collecting at least 80 percent of the policy limit. Without the itemized lists, some insurance companies will provide as little as 30 percent payoff. A second bill by Senator Dodd, SB 1291, would ensure independent insurance adjusters demonstrate their competence through background reviews and passage of a pre-licensing education course. It comes in response to complaints from many wildfire victims about adjusters who misrepresented current law.
“Senator Dodd and I have heard from hundreds of our neighbors who lost everything in the fires and to make matters worse, are having to re-live the most horrific night of their lives and recall and attempt to put a price on their most priceless possessions via a cumbersome itemized list,” Senator McGuire said. “SB 897 will ensure homeowners are able to collect what their due from their insurance company in a quick and efficient timeline and it will allow them to start rebuilding their lives and homes, which will benefit their family and our community for generations to come.
“Families who pay their insurance premiums year in and year out deserve to be covered when disaster strikes,” Senator Dodd said. “This legislation requires insurance companies to have our backs when we need it most and will benefit victims of future disasters.”
SB 894, SB 897 and SB 1291 will be co-presented by Senators Dodd and McGuire Wednesday afternoon in the Senate Committee on Insurance.