LOS ANGELES, Calif. April 2, 2018 – Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones today announced that insurers have received over 2,000 insurance claims totaling more than $421 million in losses from the deadly Montecito mudslide that roared through the community carrying tons of mud and debris destroying or damaging more than 400 homes and businesses, and tragically killing 21 people.
“Over $421 million in insured losses represents more than property lost-behind these numbers are the tragic deaths of 21 people and thousands of residents traumatized by unfathomable loss,” said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. “Recovering and rebuilding lives, homes and neighborhoods will take time-and it will be difficult. We will continue to do all we can at the Department of Insurance to help residents navigate the claims process and recover.”
Commissioner Jones took extraordinary actions under his authority to protect survivors and make sure insurers deliver on their promises to policyholders. One of Jones’ actions included issuing a formal notice to all property and casualty insurance companies reminding them of their duty to cover damages from the recent mudslides and debris flows if it is determined that the destruction of the hillsides and vegetation by the Thomas and other fires was the efficient proximate cause of the mudslides. Jones also stated in his notice that there is substantial evidence that the fires were the efficient proximate cause of the mudslides. As a result of Commissioner Jones’ notice, insurers have been recognizing the efficient proximate doctrine and have been processing and paying mudslide claims under homeowner policies.
The department issued a questionnaire in which all the insurers stated that they are recognizing the proximate cause doctrine. The department has not received reports of any denials of these claims due to exclusion for mudslides.
Commissioner Jones visited the residences impacted by the mudslides and met with survivors where he heard first-hand their frightening stories of loss. Jones also held an Insurance Claim Workshop in Santa Barbara for survivors to ensure they are aware of the resources available during the rebuilding and recovery process. Residents had the opportunity to meet one-on-one with department representatives to address specific insurance needs. Jones also deployed department staff to assist affected consumers at town halls meetings and local assistance and disaster centers in Santa Barbara.
The department is encouraging residents and business owners in Santa Barbara and Montecito areas affected by the recent disasters, to file a claim with their insurance company. If consumers have issues navigating the claims process, or they think their claim was wrongfully denied they are encouraged to contact the Department of Insurance, 800-927-4357 or online at www.insurance.ca.gov for assistance.