At 5:00 AM on Monday October 9, Adela and I were forced to evacuate our home on Sonoma Mountain as the Pressley Fire, an offspring of the Nuns Fire, reached our neighborhood. The fire burned to within 200 yards of our property before it was stopped. We were lucky, but many, many others were not. The Wine Country fires caused at least 44 deaths. The State of California estimates that some 8,400 houses, out buildings, agricultural and commercial structures were destroyed. Over 100,000 people have been displaced and one published report has total estimated insured losses for all California fires approaching $3 billion.

In the wake of this catastrophe, you may be asked to provide counsel as to what damage is covered and what is not covered under your client’s insurance policies. I offer here a primer (or refresher), on some of the basics of standard homeowner policy language in the context of a wildfire loss. This article is not to be taken as legal advice regarding coverage available or potentially available to any particular policy holder under a particular policy. As I emphasize several times in this discussion, such coverage questions must be addressed on a case-by-case basis, with an appreciation of the specific facts bearing on each loss, the claims asserted by the policy holder and the complete terms of the subject policy.

This piece is, rather, intended to be an “issue spotting” aid for your policy review. I briefly discuss the different types of standard policy forms covering single family homes, condos, mobile/manufactured homes, and renter’s insurance. We’ll then move to a detailed review of a hypothetical claim for the loss of a home and personal property by wild fire, under the most widely sold standard homeowner’s insurance form (HO 3).

Read the full article in the PDF file below.