Summary

This information is current as of Oct. 20,2020. It will be updated regularly as recovery continues. State-specific information is indicated with an asterisk (*) and italics.

Bloomington,
30
October
2020
|
16:47 PM
America/Chicago

Wildfire Recovery FAQ 2020

What are my first steps?

After a claim has been filed, a State Farm claims handler 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 our customer.

If at any time during the claims process, you have questions, do not hesitate to ask your claims handler. We know this can be a difficult and confusing time. We are here to help you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

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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 handlers. 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 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 claims, they were thoroughly trained on the specific requirements of the law in that State.

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Is there any coverage for me while I am evacuated from my home?

Prohibited Use is a coverage that applies when there is an order to evacuate one’s home due to a covered risk, like wildfire.

A customer who is evacuated and files a claim may seek payment for up to two weeks for additional costs they incur over and above their normal standard of living (e.g. hotel stay, meals, clothing). Customers should review their insurance policy for the specific terms of this coverage. In addition to evacuation orders, there are distance guidelines in place for the coverage to apply (there must be covered damage within one mile of their insured property). Customers with questions about their coverages or claim are encouraged to reach out to their claim handler.

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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 handler, 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. As with any service provider you hire, State Farm encourages you to review and understand the terms of service and your duties and responsibilities with regard to that service.

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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. The coverage may be subject to monetary limits. Please review your insurance policy for the specific details of this coverage.

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How do I replace everything I have lost?

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 insurance policy.

State Farm’s policy seeks a listing of all damaged and destroyed property so that an insured is paid for covered items that need to be repaired or replaced. The requirement to complete an inventory of personal contents 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)*.

*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. Due to a recent change in California law, homeowners with losses from a declared disaster have up to three years, from the first substantial personal property payment, to replace items per Department of Insurance requirements. This law was effective 09/21/2018.

*In Colorado, losses arising from a declared disaster homeowners have up to three years, from the first substantial personal property payment, to replace items.

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How do I complete a personal contents inventory?

Claim resources are available to provide a personalized experience with the customers by offering a meeting with the customers to assist them with completing their inventory. Customers who do not need a 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 their claim. We encourage submitting inventories by room 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 support. We will be there for you for this and all other aspects of your claim.

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Do I get an advance on my personal contents so I can begin replacing items?

State Farm provides advances to address the immediate needs of our customers. The advances are designed to provide you flexibility to begin the recovery process.

Generally, customers are initially offered the same percentage of an advance based on the circumstances of the event. In some cases, advance amounts are increased based on the individual needs/circumstances of the loss.

We are committed to provide every benefit you are entitled to within the policy contract. This includes payment for items you have lost, up to the policy limits.

We have customer care representatives that are committed to personalizing your claim experience and supporting you throughout the claim process.

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What do I need to do to be paid for all of the contents I lost?

State Farm is available to support you in completing the contents inventory process. Per the terms of your contract, State Farm will pay the replacement cost of the contents of your home based on an inventory you provide. State Farm pays to replace items in your home up to the policy limits for that coverage based on the terms of the contract.

For personal contents (the Coverage B portion of your policy), typically, you are paid actual cash value upfront. Then, when you 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 (generally up to 24 months).*

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.

We are prepared to provide personalized support to work through various aspects of your claim, in particular the contents inventory.

*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. Due to a recent change in California law, homeowners with losses from a declared disaster have up to three years, from the first substantial personal property payment, to replace items per Department of Insurance requirements. This law was effective 09/21/2018.

*In Colorado, losses arising from a declared disaster homeowners have up to three years, from the first substantial personal property payment, to replace items.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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 98-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.

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Will my insurance policy be non-renewed?

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.*

*With a recent change in California law in 2019, insurers are generally required to renew the policy for at least the next two annual renewal periods, and no less than 24 months from the date of the loss.

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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.

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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. If investigation of covered losses indicates a third party may be legally responsible, an insurer may seek recovery of its’ claim payments from that 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 catastrophic losses such as wildfires. Depending on the severity and complexity of losses, successful subrogation efforts often require significant investigation, negotiations, and/or litigation to resolve. However, this process helps State Farm recover some of the costs associated with claim payments made to affected customers, may result in the reimbursement of any incurred customer deductible, and assist in keeping insurance rates affordable for our customers.

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Can State Farm extend my Additional Living Expense coverage benefit beyond the 24 months contractual limit?

State Farm understands that there are customers facing unique circumstances and situations that are not within their full control. If you have questions about your claim and policy coverage, we would encourage you to reach out to your claim representative. We will work closely with you to address your concerns and see if there is anything more we can do to support you in the recovery process.*

*With a recent change in California law, losses arising from a declared disaster occurring after September 21st 2018, Additional Living Expense (ALE) is available for no less than 24 months and may be extended to 36 months for good cause. Additional 6 months extensions may also be granted for good cause. 

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The media has reported on the affordability and availability of homeowners insurance. Can I find homeowners insurance and is it affordable?

It is important to keep in mind that homeowners insurance covers many more causes of loss other than wildfires. (Examples: Weather - storms, fire, and wind. Non-weather – water loss, theft and vandalism.)

In general, many factors are considered when underwriting a new homeowners insurance policy. State Farm considers factors such as the location of the property relative to natural hazards, condition of the property, and the customer's past claim activity and history.

To keep our promises to all of our homeowner customers, we must find the appropriate balance between our exposure to loss, the resources available to maintain a quality level of service, and our ability to meet our financial obligations to pay claims for all of our customers.

For some helpful resources and more information on insurance availability and affordability, this website may be helpful to you.

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