California wildfire victims file insurance claims totaling nearly $12 billion

VENTURA, Calif. (KABC) -- Insurers have received nearly $12 billion in claims stemming from the wildfires in Southern California last month and the deadly fires that erupted in Northern California in October.

The Thomas Fire destroyed more than 1,000 structures - most of them homes - in Ventura and Santa Barbara counties. Footage from the ABC7 Drone showed neighborhoods completely destroyed in the blaze.

Commissioner Dave Jones, with the California Department of Insurance, said insurers received nearly $1.8 billion in claims from Thomas Fire victims alone.

When asked if insurance companies can afford to pay the billions of dollars in claims, Jones said he's confident they can be paid.

"We are confident that the insurance companies have sufficient reserves to pay these claims -not withstanding how large these numbers are," he said.

But Jones also warns the thousands of victims who have filed claims to be aware of scam artists posing as contractors.

"Oftentimes unlicensed contractors will flood into an area and begin to take money from people and then leave. (They) leave people high and dry. So you want to make sure you're dealing with someone who is licensed," he said.

But there's a big question that's still unanswered. In the wake of the Thomas Fire, a massive mudslide destroyed several neighborhoods in Montecito.

It's unclear if mudslide victims will be covered, especially if they don't have flood insurance.

"If the facts indicate that the fires were the approximate cause of the mudslide and the preliminary indication is they are, the insurers should pay those claims," Jones said.

The department will host free workshops in Ventura and Santa Barbara on Saturday to help victims of the fire and mudslides work with their insurers.

If you would like to attend the Ventura workshop, it will be held on Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at Ventura College, 4668 Telegraph Road. The Santa Barbara workshop will be held the same day from 4 p.m. until 6 p.m. at Santa Barbara City College, 721 Cliff Dr.
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