California Bills Inspired by 2017 Mudslides and Fires Clear Committee

Two bills inspired by the 2017 mudslides and fires in California that are designed to help prevent homeowners from being underinsured when disaster strikes passed the Assembly Insurance Committee on Wednesday.

The bills, sponsored by California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones, passed out of the committee with a unanimous vote. Assembly Bill 1797, authored by Assemblyman Levine, D-Marin County, and Assembly Bill 1875, authored by Jim Wood, D-Healdsburg, will help homeowners avoid being underinsured, a terrible problem faced by many survivors of the 2017 fires, according to Jones.

California Mudslide Claims Top $421M

Insurers have received more than 2,000 insurance claims totaling more than $421 million in losses from the deadly Montecito, Calif. mudslide that destroyed or damaged more than 400 homes and businesses and killed 21 people, the California Department of Insurance reported.

The total number of claims included more than $387 million in residential property losses, more than $27.2 million in commercial property, and roughly $2.5 million in personal and commercial auto.

Mudslide Losses Top $421 Million in Hard-Hit California Town

LOS ANGELES (AP) — More than $421 million in claims have been filed since deadly mudslides tore through the coastal community of Montecito during extremely heavy January rains, California's insurance commissioner said Monday.

Insurers have received more than 2,000 claims for residential and commercial losses, commissioner Dave Jones announced. Those include $388 million for residential personal property, $27.2 million for commercial property and $6.7 million for auto and other lines of insurance.

Recently burned by California's largest recorded wildfire, the hillsides of Montecito northwest of Los Angeles could not absorb the rainstorm with an epic downpour of nearly an inch (2.5 centimeters) in 15 minutes early on Jan. 9.

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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