*This page is specific to the 2017 California wildfires that occurred in October (Northern California) and December (Southern California). This page is current as of September 24, 2018. It will be updated regularly as the recovery continues.

California,
24
September
2018
|
08:07 PM
America/Chicago

Recovering from the CA Wildfires: What You Need to Know

What are my first steps?

  • After a claim has been filed, a State Farm claims specialist will contact you to discuss the extent of damage and review what is covered under your policy.
  • The complexity and collaboration that is needed to make sure we get you back on your feet can sometimes take time and is necessary to make sure we do right by you, our customer.
  • If at any time during the claims process, you have questions, do not hesitate to ask your claims specialist. We know this can be a difficult and confusing time. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
[TOP]

Who is going to help me with my claim?

  • It will take time but State Farm is here to support you from the beginning until the very end.
  • The claims process can be complex and it is often necessary to involve multiple claim specialists. This approach to enhanced customer service allows State Farm to provide quality and efficient claim service, 24 hours a day and 365 days a year. Our customers should have confidence that State Farm will bring the necessary people resources to handle our customers’ claims.
  • State Farm has catastrophe claim teams in the area helping all of our customers recover from this unexpected tragedy. Our claims operation includes a dedicated, mobile workforce, specially trained to handle catastrophe claims and prepared to go anywhere in the country within hours of being notified. Prior to handling California claims, they were thoroughly trained on the specific requirements of California law.
[TOP]

Does State Farm homeowners insurance provide coverage for debris removal?

  • State Farm homeowners insurance may provide coverage, subject to policy terms and limits, to remove debris from the residence premises. We recommend you contact your claim specialist, as they will be able to determine if coverage applies and how much State Farm will pay. 
  • The choice of who to hire to remove debris from your property is yours. Make sure any removal company is licensed and bonded. Some cities, counties or governmental agencies may offer debris removal in exchange for an agreement that you pay all the money your insurance company pays you for this service. Here is a resource that may be of help to you.
  • State Farm does NOT negotiate debris removal expenses with the county, vendor, or any other entity. It is understood that the county, vendor or other entity is hired by you, our insured, and that they work for you – not State Farm.
  • If you receive invoices, estimates or other documentation for debris removal, contact your claim specialist or call 1-844-458-4300 to be directed to the appropriate area. Please have your claim number available when you call.
  • Your claim specialist is available to assist you with any questions you may have and help facilitate the process with you and the other party.
[TOP]

Who pays for my living expenses?

  • If damage is so extensive that your residence is uninhabitable, then Additional Living Expenses (ALE) may be available. Generally, ALE reimburses you for increased living expenses you incur as a result of your home being uninhabitable and is subject to deductible and the terms and conditions of the policy. ALE is available to you while your home is being repaired, replaced or up to 24 months, whichever is shorter.
[TOP]

How do I replace everything I have lost?

  • California law (Insurance Code Section 2071) requires homeowner’s insurers to document customer’s losses and specifically requires an itemized listing of damaged and destroyed property and the value of those items. State Farm’s contract complies with this provision and seeks a listing of all damaged and destroyed property so that an insured is paid for items that were actually lost.
  • The requirement to complete an inventory of personal contents has been a part of the California insurance code for quite some time. It ensures that each amount paid to a customer after a loss complies with the terms and conditions of their policy contract.
  • For personal contents (the Coverage B portion of your policy), typically, you are paid actual cash value upfront. Then, when you actually replace the damaged personal contents, you will receive the difference as a replacement cost benefit. This assumes the replacements occur within the designated time frame of the contract (up to 24 months).
  • State Farm regularly reminds customers about the importance of completing a personal contents inventory before disaster strikes. The reason why we emphasize this is we want to pay what we owe and an inventory is a tool for customers to make sure they get the full benefits allowed to them within their policy contract.
[TOP]

How do I complete a personal contents inventory?

  • Claim resources are available to provide a personalized experience with the customers by offering a face-to-face meeting with the customers to assist them with completing their inventory. Customers who do not need a face-to-face meeting can provide their inventory to their claim handler for processing or submit them electronically directly to their claim file 24/7.
  • Customers do not have to wait until their entire inventory is completed to submit to their claim. We encourage submitting inventories by rooms to make it easier for our customers to compile.
  • Contrary to the myth that State Farm requires accounting for every single spoon and pencil, State Farm recommends grouping items of similar quality/price/age: For Example: clothing-jeans-20 pair/shirts-30/etc, cleaning supplies, food, over the counter medication/kitchen utensils as this can help expedite the process.
  • Again, if you need any assistance with the contents inventory process, all you have to do is ask your claim representative for in-person support. We will be there for you for this and all other aspects of your claim.
[TOP]

What’s available to me without a contents inventory?

  • For the 2017 Northern (October) and Southern (December) California wildfires, given the extraordinary circumstances, provisional measures have been put into place to further help our customers process their claims. State Farm has agreed to and is following the Department of Insurance expedited claims process. For total losses related to these wildfires, this includes increasing the amount of contents coverage paid up front (up to 75 percent) without requiring an inventory.
  • A 75 percent advance on contents is a payment to customers with total losses that amount to 75 percent of their contents limit, with an appropriately executed attestation form.
[TOP]

What do I need to do to get 100 percent of contents coverage?

  • State Farm is available to support you in completing the contents inventory process.
  • A policyholder may seek additional amounts beyond the 75 percent advance if they complete a full personal contents inventory per the terms of the policy contract.
  • Customers have up to two years, from the first substantial personal property payment, to replace items per Department of Insurance requirements.
  • We have offered each of our customers in-person support to work through various aspects of their claim, in particular the contents inventory.
[TOP]

I’ve heard other insurance companies are offering 100 percent contents coverage without an inventory. Why can’t State Farm offer the same?

  • The media has reported some insurance companies may be offering 100 percent of contents coverage without an inventory versus other companies that may not be doing so. Those kinds of comparisons between companies make for great headlines but they are misleading and only serve to confuse you, our customer.
  • It’s critical to understand that insurance coverage is based on the principle of ‘indemnity’ – that is, the insurance contract only provides payment for items you have actually lost, up to the policy limits.
  • The reason why it is not appropriate to compare the contents advances insurance companies offer to their customers is that not all companies’ contents coverage limits are the same. As the California Department of Insurance has recently explainedThe amount of contents coverage varies among insurers, as the law does not require uniformity of contents coverage. This means even if the insurer provides a higher percentage of payout without an inventory, the amount paid to the policyholder may actually be lower than the payout from an insurer with a lower threshold for payout without an inventory, due to the insurer's lower contents limits. Conversely, a policyholder whose insurer provides a lower percentage of payout may receive a higher claim payment due to the insurer's higher contents limits. For this reason, it is difficult to compare one insurer's threshold for waiver to another insurer's threshold for waiver.
  • State Farm bases its product prices on how much it anticipates actually paying in personal property claims; not on how much it would cost the company to automatically pay out 100 percent of the contents coverage limits of its customers’ policies.
[TOP]

Do I have enough insurance to cover the value of my home?

  • The tragic wildfires are an important reminder to meet with an agent at least annually to review policies and coverage.
  • It’s critical to understand that market value​ is different than the replacement cost to rebuild your home. Market value is the amount a buyer would pay for a home, including the land, regardless of how much it would cost to rebuild the home. Replacement cost for this purpose is the rebuilding cost necessary to replace your entire home.
  • We recommend that you purchase an amount of coverage at least equal to the estimated replacement cost. But the choice is yours. Since it is impossible to predict today what the exact cost will be to replace your home in the future, it's important to have enough coverage to account for unforeseen circumstances.
[TOP]

How can I figure out the replacement cost of my home?

  • The amount of insurance coverage selected is up to the customer.
  • Ask if a replacement cost estimate is available when you have the home appraised or consult with your local builders association or a reputable builder for an estimate.
  • Building contractors or professional replacement cost appraisers are a good source for obtaining an estimated replacement cost of your home. Estimates from these sources should reflect your home's features. When you upgrade or improve your home, you may increase your home's estimated replacement cost.
  • Be sure to inform your agent about any changes to your home that may impact your insurance coverage needs.
  • Replacement cost estimates are influenced by supply of labor, demand for labor, and the cost of construction materials. Keeping up with the current market conditions in your area and changing your home insurance coverage amount accordingly, will help you maintain coverage at least equal to 100 percent of the estimated replacement cost coverage for your home.
[TOP]

How long does coverage last for a typical insurance policy?  

  • An insurance policy is a contract. You pay for coverage for a specified amount of time defined as the policy period (for example six months or a year). The contract protects you for that specified amount of time and for losses you incur under that contract.
  • Coverage is not cumulative year to year, meaning your premiums do not add up like a savings account to be used when there is a claim.
[TOP]

Does State Farm have the resources to pay all of these claims?

  • Disasters like these are a reminder that our business is highly volatile. Despite that volatility, our long history of financial strength is what allows us to keep the commitments we have made to our customers, helping to remove some of the uncertainty from their lives during times of significant loss.
  • We have faced countless significant weather and other major disasters over our 95-year history, and we stand ready for countless more as we help people manage the risks of everyday life, recover from the unexpected, and realize their dreams.
[TOP]

Will my insurance policy be non-renewed?

  • There are several laws in California that address significant losses to homes and homeowners insurance policies. For example, following a declared disaster, California law requires that home insurers renew the impacted homeowners’ insurance policy at least once.
  • Many factors are considered when underwriting a homeowner’s insurance policy because each customer’s circumstances are unique. We look at each customer’s situation on a case-by-case basis and try to make sure we treat similar cases fairly and in a consistent manner.
  • Losses resulting from weather events or catastrophes are included when re-underwriting a policy for continued insurance coverage. Depending on numerous characteristics that are specific to each policy, State Farm may elect to simply renew the policy, send a caution letter regarding overall claim activity, recommend or require repairs/loss mitigation measures or non-renew the risk.
  • Our customers are our top priority, and we want to be able to meet their needs. It is our intent and obligation to fairly and responsibly manage our business, provide the best possible service, and provide homeowners insurance for all of our customers over the long term.

 

[TOP]

Will rates go up for my homeowners insurance?

  • Rates are determined based on our anticipated need to pay future claims, not to make up for past losses. It is important to note that many factors are considered when underwriting and pricing a homeowners insurance policy because each customer’s circumstances are unique.
  • We encourage all of our customers to have a conversation with their agent to make sure they are comfortable with the appropriate coverage for their unique situations, including reviewing discounts available to them that could decrease their premiums.
  • We have offered each of our customers in-person support to work through various aspects of their claim, in particular the contents inventory.
[TOP]

I have heard the term "subrogation". What does it mean and how does it affect me as a State Farm customer?

  • State Farm’s commitment to our customers is the same for all claims. That commitment is to pay what we owe promptly, courteously, and efficiently.
  • After an insurer has paid its customer on a covered claim, it may seek recovery of such claim payments from a legally responsible third party. This process is called subrogation.
  • Subrogation is a common insurance industry operations practice and is pursued in a wide range of losses from auto accidents to large scale disasters. This process helps State Farm recover the costs associated with claim payments made to affected customers and may also result in the reimbursement of the customer’s deductible.
  • Subrogation helps State Farm control claim costs and keeps rates low for our customers.
[TOP]