In 2017 and 2018, California experienced devastating wildfires, during which thousands of structures, homes, and businesses were destroyed. California insurers scrambled to adjust the thousands of claims but it was quickly recognized that they were not prepared to timely handle losses due to a large-scale natural disaster. The California legislature responded, enacting several amendments to the law extending the time policyholders had to collect additional living expenses and replacement costs.
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Photo for The Washington Post by Stuart W. Palley.

The Kincade Fire recently burned nearly 80,000 acres of Northern Sonoma County with smoke traveling far and wide. Our incredible firefighters from across the country teamed up to bring this emergency to 100% containment with only 300 structures destroyed. Compare that to several thousand structures destroyed in the Tubbs and Atlas Fires in 2017 and the devastatingly sad Camp Fire which cost so many lives last year.
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Most homeowners and commercial insurance policies contains exclusions for loss or damages caused by mudflow or other similar occurrences. An example of on such exclusion is included below:

b. Earth Movement and Settlement, meaning earthquake, which includes land shock wavers or tremors before, during or after a volcanic eruption; landslide; mudflow; sinkhole; earth sinking, rising or shifting; clay shrinkage or other expansion or contraction of soils or organic materials; decay of buried or organic materials; setline cracking or expansion of foundation;


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Southern Californians impacted by the mudslides that followed the devastating wildfires in Ventura and Santa Barbara may see some light at the end of the tunnel with the big question of whether insurers will cover their mudslide loss. Over the last few week Californians have lost their homes when the rains brought homes down from the mountainsides ravaged by fire. With the vegetation gone, the hills and mountains simply could not hold during the heavy rains and mud flowed downhill at 20 miles per hour at what witnesses can only call a “wall of mud” that consumed homes and lives within its path. For many, this meant losing all worldly possessions when their houses slid down the hillside and were buried in mud. Even the ability to rebuild in the area is a question for many.
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The buzz amongst policyholders about what insurance owe for additional living expenses due to the Northern California Wildfires is still going strong as Southern California braces this week for Santa Ana winds. With predicted gusts up to 70 mph, Southern Californians are in real danger of the potential for wildfires. Recently, I’ve received quite a few calls from victims of the Northern California wildfires asking what their rights are under their additional living expenses portion of their insurance policies. Most policies limit policyholders to one year of additional living expenses (ALE) or the reasonable time to rebuild. In the recent Northern California wildfires, California Governor Jerry Brown declared a State of Emergency which means that every policyholder with proper additional living expense coverage under their policy has an extension of an additional year for ALE.
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All states have unique insurance laws following disasters. Many important rights and options are not contained in the insurance contract. California wildfire victims and policyholders are discovering first-hand that some insurance adjusters are not being honest or upfront regarding their rights following the 2017 wildfires.
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