California insurance commissioner issues formal notice to insurers on mudslide coverage for homeowners

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones issued a formal notice to all property and casualty insurance companies on Jan. 29 regarding homeowners’ claims from the recent mudslides and debris flows.

The notice acknowledges that homeowners’ and certain commercial property insurance policies frequently have exclusions for losses from mudflow, debris flow, mudslide, landslide or other similar events. Under California insurance law, the exclusions are not enforceable if the facts establish that the wildfire, which is a covered peril, was the “efficient proximate cause” of the subsequent flowing, mudflow, debris flow, mudslide, landslide, or other similar events.

Conflicting California Mudslide Warnings Were Issued, Report Shows

In the days before mudslides devastated California neighborhoods, officials released conflicting evacuation orders that left some hard-hit neighborhoods out of the warning zone, a newspaper reported.

The Santa Barbara County Sheriff’s Office had posted on its website and on Facebook a list of voluntary and mandatory evacuation areas for the coastal town of Montecito, the Los Angeles Times reported.

Calif. Debris Removal Presents Health, Environmental Risks

Last week, Santa Barbara, California suffered 20 casualties, countless injuries and millions of dollars in property damage due to the unprecedented mudslides that tore through the city of Montecito. Search and rescue efforts continue in the aftermath of the phenomenon, which was caused by the heavy rains washing away ground laid bare by the Thomas Fire in December 2017. The resulting millions of pounds of debris left behind present biological and environmental risks to the area. Returning residents have been warned to protect against potentially hazardous chemicals and untreated sewage that were swept along with the mudslide debris. Meanwhile, where all this mud and debris will be moved to presents another dilemma.

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