California is prone to natural disasters. Just this last Sunday, Southern California was pummeled with rainstorms that drenched the area with intense downpours throughout the day. In Los Angeles County, evidence of this is all over as the affluent neighborhood of Hancock Park found itself underwater in various residential pockets. Even boutique stores along the famous Melrose Strip were flooded.
Probably the strongest evidence of this storm’s damage is in the San Pedro area, where the roadway collapsed in a landslide into the ocean. Although this was an area of concern before the rainstorm, it was certainly driveable before Sunday. Thankfully, no homes were lost, but now the nearby houses along the cliffside may be geologically compromised.
With winter and additional rainstorms, there comes the possibility of landslides. Despite these worries, the threat of another major earthquake is California’s most dangerous and costly potential natural disaster. If you believe the statistics, a large quake occurs once every twenty years, so we are overdue for another large quake. Our last big earthquake in Southern California was the 1994 Northridge Quake, which caused about $20 billion in damage.
In California, earthquake insurance is not a covered risk under a general “All Risk” policy. In fact, earthquakes are specifically excluded under most property insurance policies. See California Insurance Code § 10088. To have insurance coverage for earthquake related damage, a separate policy must be purchased. These earthquake insurance policies can be costly. Thankfully for homeowners, earthquake coverage must be offered at the time of purchase of residential property insurance or at least within sixty (60) days of the purchase. Earthquake insurance must also be offered every other year upon renewal of a homeowners policy. With residential properties, an insurer must offer earthquake coverage to a homeowner or forego insuring the property altogether. See Williams v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (1990) 216 Cal.App.3d 1540, 1545.
Although many insureds wish to forego the extra expense of earthquake coverage, it should be noted that the insurance company insuring your home must offer the coverage and the failure to offer earthquake insurance coverage may give insureds who suffer earthquake losses a possibility to recover from an insurer who failed to comply with the insurance code and applicable Act. See Jacobellis v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Company (9th Cir. 1997) 120 F. 3d 171, 173,-174. Jacobellis implies that a private right of action exists because otherwise the Insurance Code Statues could not be enforced.
With the statistics indicating a large earthquake will hit Southern California, it’s time for insureds to examine their policies to see if their earthquake insurance is adequate or determine whether they should be purchasing earthquake insurance if they don’t already have it.