LAKE COUNTY, Calif. (September 8, 2017) – In July, packets were sent to individuals who received debris removal services from government contractors in the wake of the Valley Fire. These packets included invoices, to be submitted for insurance consideration and reimbursement. Around 1,050 packets were distributed to survivors who had insurance coverage at the time of the fire.
In August, letters with statements to be signed under penalty of perjury were sent to those who had stated they were uninsured at the time of the Valley Fire.
Second notices are going out to parties who have not responded this week.
If you or someone you know received services from a County contractor, and have not received any letters or invoices from the County, don’t wait for your second notice. Please contact the County Administrative Office immediately, at (707) 263-2580. It is likely the County does not have your current contact information. All documents can also be emailed, upon request. Please send those requests to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Many Valley Fire survivors attended a series of three July public meetings for those who had insurance. County Supervisors Rob Brown, District 5, and Moke Simon, District 1, attended and co-facilitated all three meetings, alongside County Administrative Officer and Valley Fire Recovery Coordinator Carol Huchingson and County staff. The California Department of Insurance also sent representatives to two meetings.
“Those meetings were powerful reminders of the enormous reach of the Valley Fire disaster,” shared Huchingson, “So many families were impacted, and we continue to hear from people who, nearly two years later, are battling to settle insurance claims and still deeply struggling with the effects of the fire.”
Some insured individuals have expected that the County will be filing insurance claims on behalf of Valley Fire survivors. This is not the case, it is the property owner’s responsibility to file a claim with their insurance. Survivors who received State services have been asked to complete an Insurance Authorization Form. The County will be verifying and fulfilling insurance company requests for additional information, only, not submitting claims.
“Right now, we want to make sure you get the County’s invoices to your insurance company, so we can all meet our obligations to the State and continue to recover as a community,” shared Supervisor Brown. “Some insurance companies insist you file your claim within two years of your date of loss, and we are getting close to that date.”
While it is customary for all insurance claims, even those related to a declared State of Emergency such as the Valley Fire, to be filed within two years of the date of loss, the California Department of Insurance, Senator Mike McGuire’s office and County staff have confirmed that there is no formal two-year limitation in statute.
In fact, “No time limit of less than 24 months” can be imposed, and extensions can be granted in the event that “good cause” is demonstrated, per California Insurance Code section 2051.5. The text specifically states, “Nothing in this section shall prohibit the insurer from allowing the insured additional time…”
Some have suggested that this two-year guideline is most specifically related to payment of replacement cost for a loss, and reimbursement for debris removal should be excluded.
January 23, 2017, California’s Supreme Court, in Association of California Insurance Companies, et al, v. Dave Jones [California’s Insurance Commissioner], ruled 7-0 that “debris removal and demolition expenses, and overhead and profit,” are included in consideration of the replacement cost of a home.
If anyone has difficulty getting appropriate insurance reimbursement, with good cause, a Request for Assistance may be filed with the Department of Insurance:
Many members of the public have expressed concern and frustration regarding the costs of the State-facilitated programs. Supervisor Simon consistently reminded survivors, “You are only responsible for the amount reimbursed by your insurance. We are collecting these funds because this is mandated by the State. We know how hard this is for all of you; our districts were completely devastated. I’ll say it again, you are only responsible for the amount reimbursed by your insurance.”
For most residents’ properties, the amount covered by homeowner’s insurance is less than the State’s costs for trucking and disposal, alone.
A few Valley Fire Survivors have reported that they received funds from their insurance company for debris removal, and no longer have the money to reimburse the State. If an individual is unable to pay their full obligation at this time, they may request a meeting with County staff, to develop a repayment agreement. Once your final obligation is determined, we may be able to allow repayment over 12-24 months.
“We hope that survivors know we are working alongside you,” Simon stated. “We are here to help.”
For more information, please contact the County Administrative Office at (707) 263-2580, or email@example.com.