California insurance commissioner reveals initial wildfire damage estimate


California’s insurance commissioner Dave Jones has revealed that the recent wildfires in California will cause some $9 billion in insured losses, making them the deadliest and costliest wildfire catastrophes in California's history.

At least 88 people were killed and 20,000 homes and structures were damaged or destroyed by the Camp, Woolsey and Hill fires in November and December.

Jones revealed the results of claims data collected by the Department of Insurance from insurers processing fire-related insurance claims for tens of thousands of policyholders. While the numbers are expected to climb, as more claims are filed and processed, the preliminary claims data reflects $9.05 billion in actual losses for commercial and residential coverage, personal and commercial vehicles, and agricultural and other coverages.

“The devastating wildfires of 2018 were the deadliest and costliest wildfire catastrophes in California's history," said Jones. "The tragic deaths of 88 people and over $9 billion in insured losses to date are shocking numbers-behind the insured loss numbers are thousands of people who've been traumatised by unfathomable loss.”

The California insurance department will update loss figures in the coming months as insurers report more data. It is anticipated that, as both insurers and policyholders continue to access burn areas and claims are amended, insured losses will rise.

Jones also issued a formal notice to insurers asking them to expedite claims, by cutting through red tape, issuing checks immediately for four months of out of pocket costs, and doing all they can do to help policyholders who are likely to have little or no documentation that insurers normally require.

In addition, Jones issued a declaration of an emergency, which allows the insurers to tap out-of-state claims adjusters from their other offices to deal with the huge volume of claims. This is an important step in increasing the claims processing capacity for insurers and helping speed the recovery and rebuilding process. At the same time, Jones issued a formal notice to insurers that they are responsible for making sure out of state staff are trained in California's stronger consumer protection laws.

California Insurance Department, wildfires, damage, estimates

Bermuda Re