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Over 5000 homes  and 1000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed in the recent Valley and Butte fires, effecting thousands of California policyholders.

As is always the case in these kinds of disasters, many policyholders will find it difficult to satisfy in a timely fashion the documentary requirements imposed by their insurance policies. This may be due to the trauma and dislocation of the events or simply because relevant materials -- proof of vehicle ownership, personal property inventories, or other records -- may have been lost in the fire.

With these issues in mind, the California Insurance Commissioner and a number of insurance companies have agreed to voluntary expedited claim handling procedures for victims of the Valley and Butte wildfires. Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced the outlines of the expedited procedures today (October 14, 2015) in a news release: "Butte and Valley fire insurers agree to voluntary claim handling reforms to speed victim recovery."

According to the press release, policyholders may receive advance payment for up to four months of additional living expenses and twenty-five percent of policy limits for personal property losses. Policyholders may also expedite the process for debris removal.

In addition to the approximately 5000 homes damaged by these fires, more than 1000 vehicles were damaged or destroyed. A number of auto insurers have agreed to accelerate payment for damaged or destroyed automobiles and to provide at least thirty days billing leniency for lost insurance renewal notices or for those dislocated persons who do not have the ability to have mail forwarded.

The Commissioner's press release stated that the following insurers have agreed to the voluntary policy reforms (although others may agree in the future): Allstate Insurance Group, CSAA Insurance Group (AAA Northern California), Farmers Insurance Group (including Foremost), Hartford Fire & Casualty Group, Liberty Mutual/Safeco, State Farm Mutual Group, Travelers Group, and United Services Automobile Association Group (USAA). To find out whether your insurer has agreed to the reform procedures, contact the Department of Insurance Consumer hotline at 800-927-4357. Further information is also available on the Department of Insurance website: insurance.ca.gov.

If you are in need of wildfire insurance, including coverage under California's FAIR Plan, please contact Pfeifer Insurance Brokers. We are specialists in wildfire coverage. See our dedicated wildfire website at www.californiawildfireinsurance.com for details. And please also see our recent informational blogs on related topics: "Living Expenses Benefits for Wildfire Evacuation Victims" (September 13, 2015), "Wildfires and Homeowners Insurance - What You Need to Know" (July 31, 2015), "The California FAIR Program: A Possible Solution to Wildfire Risk" (May 28, 2014), and "California FAIR Plan: Insurance for Homes in Brush Fire Areas" (February 22, 2014). 

Alex Pfeifer
Pfeifer Insurance Brokers
650 762-8087
alex@pfeiferins.com
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