Senator Bill Dodd, who represents Napa County and surrounding areas in the California Senate, has recently introduced Senate Bill 240, known colloquially as The Insurance Adjuster Act of 2019. S.B. 240 would amend the California Insurance Code to streamline and organize claim processing, particularly during a state of emergency / catastrophic events. The proposal is in response to a series of devastating wildfires which ravaged the Sonoma County and Napa Valley wine country during the 2017 fire season (Atlas, Tubbs, and Nun fires). Many of Senator Dodd’s constituents reported difficulty in navigating the claim process due to multiple claim professionals handling a single claim, many of whom were outside of California, and many of whose capabilities were challenged.
S.B. 240 would direct the Department of Insurance to issue annual notices setting forth legal developments as they relate to property insurance policies, including best practices for evaluating damage caused by an emergency, and requires out-of-state claims professionals to certify, under penalty of perjury, that they have read these notices along with claim adjusting literature also prepared by the Department of Insurance.
S.B. 240 would also require insurers to designate a primary point of contact for their customers during a state of emergency until the claim is closed or litigation is initiated. While the proposed legislation would not prohibit multiple claims professionals handling a single claim, it would provide for training standards issued by the Department of Insurance on how best to handle claims in a state of emergency.
Further, S.B. 240 would require claims professionals who are not licensed in California (1) to be supervised by a licensed California claims professional, and (2) to read and understand the annual emergency claim adjusting literature issued by the Department of Insurance within 15 calendar days of beginning adjusting of claims in California.
The bill passed the Senate by unanimous vote and is pending in the Assembly. The bill is also supported by Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara. Accordingly, the bill is expected to pass the Legislature. Once enacted, S.B. 240 would significantly elevate claim adjusting requirements related to emergencies, such as natural disasters, by placing greater oversight in the Department of Insurance, and greater responsibility on claims professional within and outside of California. How pragmatic these requirements are and what practical impact they will have on the industry are developments which we will follow and provide further commentary as this bill makes its way through the California legislature and into the California Insurance Code.
Reprinted courtesy of Jon A.Turigliatto, Chapman Glucksman Dean Roeb & Barger and Ravi R. Mehta, Chapman Glucksman Dean Roeb & Barger
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