Insurance Adjusters Under Fire After Cheating California Wildfire Victims

Well, it’s fire season again and the Golden State is ablaze once more. When the smoke clears, things tend to get pretty legal too.

For example, two wildfire victims are suing California’s top insurance regulator, alleging the state failed to protect Californians from unscrupulous, out-of-state adjusters working illegally in California who mishandled claims.

According to news sources, the Department of Insurance is fighting the case in court, saying in documents that the suit is “an attempt to manufacture a ‘crisis’ that does not exist.” Yet Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara has endorsed a newly signed law designed to prevent some of what the plaintiffs are complaining about: untrained, out-of-state adjusters who bungle insurance claims.

“As I have met with survivors of California’s devastating wildfires, I have seen first-hand that a well-trained insurance adjuster often makes the difference in resolving their claims,” Lara said in a May press statement supporting the bill. “Given the unfortunate likelihood that California will face large-scale wildfires in the near future, Senate Bill 240 will help ensure that out-of-state adjusters and insurers have the training to provide accurate information to survivors.”

The new law requires unlicensed and independent adjusters — who otherwise might be familiar with disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes, not wildfires — to read California regulations. The insurance agency can also authorize a civil penalty of up to $500 for adjusters who engage in misconduct. Both the law and the lawsuit are the result of the aftermath of the deadly 2017 and 2018 fires, in which hundreds of out-of-state and unlicensed adjusters flocked to California to handle an influx of thousands of claims.

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