Segment | Environment

After the Fire

Our story focuses on Karen Reimus, a woman whose San Diego home and neighborhood were obliterated by wildfires in 2003. After a year-long battle with her insurance company, Reimus, an attorney and self-described soccer mom, became a champion on behalf of policyholders and a thorn in the side of the California insurance business. As an organizer with the consumer rights group United Policyholders, Reimus travels the country to help victims of natural disasters in their conflicts with the insurance industry.

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After we lost our home in Poway to the Witch Creek fire last October, we were underinsured, despite having called our agent almost every year to request that we be insured to fully replace the home. After the fire, we went into the agent's office to increase the coverage on a second home we own in Laguna Hills. She programmed some changes into the computer & brought the coverage amount up about $100,000 which is still under the replacement cost by about $200,000 to 300,000. She said she could not increase the coverage any higher.
This increase in coverage amounted to only a few dollar increase in our premium amount, so I would beg to differ with your insurance company representative about the conusmer being reluctant to fully insure their homes due to concerns about premium costs & would be happy to debate her.
We have purchased a new home in Laguna Hills rather than rebuilding in Poway due to underinsurance issues & restrictions that prevent rebuilding a house that we would want to live in. We are now insured with another company; it has taken many phone calls to get the policy limits up & again we feel we are not fully insured to replace this house. The insurance industry is running the show, not the consumer. I have an endorsement in my policy on my burned home that states that the insurance company will review my limits & adjust them annually. As you can see by my experiences, the insurance industry is not telling the truth.

I don't understand. You asked your agent to increase your coverage and they said they could only increase it to $100,000? I'm an independent agent and I can not think of a reason why they would not increase your coverage. If you feel you still are not adequately insured you need to find a new agent. I just do not know of a company that would not want to properly insure your home. In fact our companies insist the home be insured to replacement value.

I viewed the last portion of the Good samaritan Attorney- soccer mom helping her neighborhood after the San Diego fire,  I do not agree with her! 
 
I find it amazing that people do not read their policies!  What that insurance agent said was true.  People hate to spend money on insurance. They never think it is going to happen to them.  But look at our auto insurance?  If anything we over insure on the car vs. house and home.
 
 So when our policy comes for renewal my husband and I fill out the worksheet of replacement costs just in case we loose our home in a tragedy. And don't forget the personal property in the house, Furnishings, golf clubs, jewelry, and so on.  Remember you don't pay for the land value just the replacement value. So if you have a million dollar property, guess what?  You insure to replace that house not the land.  Take the time to call a contractor and ask, give them the sq footage and so on.  So you have to keep that in mind.  OR, If you don't know the value of your home call your real-estate friends, we all have them.  This takes time and is very important to fill out correctly, so when there is a castrophe you won't have to worry.  Yes it is expensive but isn't your home worth it?  This reminds me of all the people who signed loan docs without reading what they committed on the signature line.
 
It is the same with Earthquake insurance.  People are too cheap and most people run the risk of not insuring for that big one...
 
I hope this all makes sense, that we should all be prepared and not blame your insurance agent for under-insuring "your home".  If anything they  would rather you over-insure because I think they make more money that way anyway.  We should not put the responsiblity on them, it is ultimately yours.
 
Thank you,
 
Mona Lisa

Private insurance to protect my home