By Miriam Raftery
May 29, 2018 (Sacramento) – By a 24-11 vote, the California State Senate today passed Senate Bill 894, a bill to help wildfire survivors who were underinsured rebuild their lives after devastating disasters. Republicans opposed the bill, while all Democrats (except one) voted in support.
"This is an important bill that will not only assist current wildfire survivors, but will also help to jump start the rebuilding and economic recovery process," said Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones. "Residents who have lost everything are struggling to recover and rebuild their homes and lives. This bill will provide much-needed protections and improve chances for recovery."
The bill helps fire survivors in several ways.
SB 894 provides survivors the option to combine various coverages within their homeowner policy to offset any underinsured amount in their primary dwelling. This provision would only be triggered in the event of a total loss following a declared disaster where the survivor is underinsured in their primary dwelling or Coverage A. Underinsurance is not only a financial blow to disaster survivors, it is economically devastating to communities because, as one of the most challenging obstacles to loss recovery, it causes claim settlements to be delayed.
SB 894 would also extend policy renewal protections for survivors retroactively to July 1, 2017 to alleviate the burden on survivors who find it impossible to get new coverage during the planning and rebuilding phase of the recovery. Under this bill, survivors would be able to renew their insurance policy twice, which would cover two years after the loss. The bill would also extend the amount of time to collect living expenses from two years to three. Both provisions reflect the reality that it takes most survivors more time than currently permitted to rebuild or replace the total loss property.
The bill now moves to the Assembly for consideration.