North Bay fire insurance claims top $3.3 billion

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones announced Tuesday that insured losses from the October wildfires in Northern California have now topped $3.3 billion and the number is expected to grow.

The fires were collectively “one of the deadliest and costliest” in California history,” Jones said at a news conference in the Insurance Department’s San Francisco office:

“As shocking as $3 billion in insured losses are, the number is sure to grow, as more claims are coming.”

The loss claims for homes, commercial property and vehicles in eight Northern California counties were reported to the department by 15 large insurance companies.

Losses to residences account for, by far, the largest amount: $3.15 billion.

That amount includes 4,712 homes listed as a total loss and 10,016 claimed as a partial loss in the eight counties, the department reported.

Sonoma County leads the list with residential loss claims of $2.6 billion, including 3,963 total losses and 7,776 homes with partial loss.

Second on the list is Napa County, with $267 million in insured losses to homes, including 391 total losses and 1,222 partial losses.

Other counties in the report are Butte, Lake, Mendocino, Nevada, Solano and Yuba.

Commercial property losses in the eight counties thus far amount to $137 million in claims. The category includes apartment buildings with four or more units.

Other losses in the region are $28 million in personal autos, $4.6 million in farm equipment and smaller amounts for watercraft and commercial vehicles.

The figures don’t include losses by people who had no insurance or who under-insured their property, or losses to uninsured public infrastructure.

The insured losses tell only part of the tragic story of the fires, Jones noted.

“We must remember that 43 people lost their lives. Behind each and every one of these claims are ordinary people who lost their homes, lost their vehicles and in some cases lost family members,” he said.

The commissioner had some advice for people seeking insurance compensation.

Most importantly, Jones said, make sure that any contractors or insurance adjusters one talks to are licensed:

“With anyone offering to assist you, be cautious about signing anything.”

Jones said there are three types of insurance adjusters: those employed directly by an insurance company; independent adjusters working under contract to an insurer; and public adjusters. All three types must be licensed. Their licenses can be checked at the department’s website at https://www.insurance.ca.gov/.

Public adjusters can be hired by members of the public to aid with their insurance claims. State law restricts them from soliciting business until seven days after evacuation orders are lifted.

Jones said that public adjusters charge a fee or commission and sometimes are not needed because customers can often get the help they need from their insurance company or from consumer service workers at the Insurance Department.

The department’s consumer service telephone number for people who may have difficulty with their insurers is (800) 927-4357.