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Insurance Claims Top $421 Million for Montecito Debris Flows

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones says more than 2,000 claims have been filed for residential, commercial losses

California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones talked about the insurance claims filed in the wake of the deadly Jan. 9 Montecito debris flows, which total almost $422 million as of Monday. Click to view larger
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones talked about the insurance claims filed in the wake of the deadly Jan. 9 Montecito debris flows, which total almost $422 million as of Monday.  (Courtesy photo)

Montecito-area residents and business owners have filed nearly $422 million in insurance-claim losses since the deadly Jan. 9 debris flows, the California Department of Insurance announced Monday.

Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said during a media conference Monday that insurers have received more than 2,000 claims for residential and commercial property losses, destroyed vehicles and other items.

Jones said there were 1,415 insurance claims listing $388 million for residential property losses, 235 claims totaling $27.2 million in losses for commercial properties, and 388 claims totaling $6.7 million for auto and other lines of insurance.

“Behind these figures lay loss of life, loss of homes, loss of properties and loss of precious moments, loss of businesses,” Jones said.

“These numbers tell only a part of the tale of the devastation that Montecito and other communities suffered.”

Twenty-three people were killed, and hundreds of homes were damaged or destroyed in the debris flows, which also caused huge infrastructure damage to the Montecito area. 

Santa Barbara County is working with the Federal Emergency Management Agency on a recovery map for Montecito, and updating flood hazard area maps, and rebuilding could take years.

Jones said the total amount of insured losses is likely to increase as more residents file claims with their insurers and as insurance companies adjust claims.

He outlined actions taken to reassure homeowners who did not have mudslide or flood coverage at the time of the debris flows. The state Department of Insurance has informed property and casualty insurance companies to honor claims if the residents had fire insurance.

The “proximate cause” of the debris flow was the catastrophic Thomas Fire in December that burned 281,893 acres in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties, he said.

Jones issued a formal notice in January to insurers reminding them of their duty to cover damages from the mudslide and debris flow if it’s determined the destruction of the land by the wildfire was the mudslide’s efficient “proximate cause.”

“The formal notice had a positive effect on the insurers,” Jones said. 

Noozhawk staff writer Brooke Holland can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.

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