Insurance companies exploit communities ravaged by disastrous fires. We need disasters prevention and state help not predatory corporate exploitation.
Throughout the landscape of California, many places naturally experience annual dry periods that can lead to brush fires of varying sizes. In the past several years, this annual dry period has been increasingly aggravated by record-setting temperatures, due to global trends in climate change as a result of corporate and military environmental devastation, accompanied by rather severe periods of drought. Meanwhile agribusiness continues their chaotic practices in pursuit of profits that generate massive amounts of food and water waste.
As a result, many in California have come to know and experience the dry season as “wildfire season,” that consistently threatens the safety and the homes of Californians in particularly high-risk areas. As of 2017 however, an even more dramatic change seems to be occurring. Wildfire season is not ending.
The combined financial toll of the wildfires throughout the state from October to December of 2017 approached nearly $12 billion; if treated as a single incident, the Fall/Winter 2017 California wildfires would be considered one of the most devastating natural disasters in the history of the state. Soon after these fires had been fully extinguished, and people were just beginning to return to their homes, many of the lucky homeowners who were able to escape with only limited damage to their properties from the fires themselves dealt with compounded or even more severe damage due to flooding from nearby mudslides.
Disaster prevention systems are only minimally in place. The state takes little responsibility and individuals and families bear the burden, meaning that disasters have wide ranging consequences for communities across the state. In the aftermath of these disasters, which are becoming more and more commonplace, many people have been left to deal with rebuilding their communities, their homes, and their lives with only the help of a predatory insurance industry that is only really concerned with its bottom line.
While the Department of Insurance has made attempts at slapping insurers on the wrist for doing things like having adjustors misinform clients of their rights after filing a claim, having homeowners work with adjustors who are not even registered with the Department of Insurance, or even refusing to cover losses from resulting flooding and mudslides for those homeowners whose policies only cover fires. However, issuing formal announcements and providing “guidance” via a website is not enough. The insurance companies must be held accountable for their egregious exploitation of Californians in their time of dire need.
The Department of Insurance’s motto is “Insurance Protection for All Californians,” but what does that mean when “insurance protection” itself is driven by a for-profit industry? Californians deserve much more than insurance; Californians deserve a state that supports all of their efforts to rebuild and protect their homes, with profits taken completely out of the equation.
In an interview for the Los Angeles Times, Laurie Lamantia who lost her home in one of the fall fires, put her experience of dealing with the insurance companies in the aftermath quite succinctly: "Your insurance company is not your friend…The most important thing people can do is unite. ”
Insurance companies’ predatory approach to “disaster relief” has been on display for the residents of Santa Rosa, Ventura County and elsewhere affected by the fires which have ravaged California for the past year. Moreover, the bankruptcy of the current Insurance Commissioner’s office has likewise been blazoned in bold, ashen letters.
The heart of the issue, however, goes beyond the insurance companies and their friends in the Insurance Commissioner’s office: this is at its core an issue with a system which resolves disasters not through compassion and support, but by attaching an opportunity for profit to tragedy and misfortune.