In wake of disaster in Boulder County, the Colorado Division of Insurance can help people with their insurance questions.
Thursday’s fires in Boulder County were devastating. While remaining safe, checking on your family and neighbors, and taking care of the basics (food, shelter, clothing) are the most important things in the immediate aftermath, insurance will soon be a top concern for many people.
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), can help people with their insurance questions, whether that’s getting the contact information for insurance companies and agents or asking how to file a claim. Contact the Consumer Service Team at 303-894-7490 / 800-930-3745 (outside of the Denver metro area) / DORA_Insurance@state.co.us or visit our website, doi.colorado.gov (click on “File a Complaint”).
“This is a large disaster and the impact to many people will be felt for months. The Division expects insurance companies to honor the promises they have made to Coloradans and provide whatever assistance is possible,” said Insurance Commissioner Michael Conway. “We will be ensuring that insurance companies do all they can to help people.”
The Division expects health insurance companies to step up to help people impacted by these fires and is directing health insurance carriers to do the following.
- Waive any prior authorization for prescription refills or durable medical equipment for consumers in the fire-affected areas
- Waive any prior authorization, utilization review, or medical necessity determination for patients transferred or discharged in the fire-affected areas
It is always important for homeowners to know what their insurance policies provide, but in this situation locating those documents can be difficult. The Division will be closely monitoring the situation to ensure that all consumer protections are afforded to impacted homeowners. In particular, the Division will be closely analyzing compliance with the following requirements.
- Homeowners insurance companies are required to provide policyholders with a copy of their policy within 3 business days of the policyholder’s request. This can be helpful to people who have been evacuated or who do not have access to the internet.
- Homeowners insurance policies cover the contents of the home as well as the structure. If you’ve lost your owner-occupied home (meaning you own and live in the home) in the fires (what is called a “total loss”), Colorado law requires insurance companies to immediately pay you 30% of the total contents coverage you have in your policy.
Insurance Information and Reminders
Everyone should make safety their first priority. Do not return to neighborhoods until authorities allow you to do so. Do not endanger yourself or others to assess damage. And people still need to be mindful of COVID-19 and the challenges and restrictions due to the pandemic.
- If you’ve been evacuated, contact your insurance agent or company immediately to let them know where you are staying. Not only can they help you with coverage or claims questions, they can help find lodging options as many people in the area will be temporarily displaced.
- Homeowners or renters who are under a mandatory evacuation order typically have insurance coverage for additional living expenses (ALE) which provides them with an amount of out-of-pocket money while evacuated. Policies can vary so if possible, check with your insurance company or agent about your coverage. Save all receipts for expenses that may be reimbursed.
- If you are unable to live in your house or apartment because of the fire, most policies will also reimburse you the difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses. However, policies have limits on the amount they will pay and these may be subject to a deductible.
Filing Claims - Homeowners, Renters and Businesses
- Start the claim process as soon as you can - For your home, any out buildings and vehicles, you’ll want to contact your insurance company or agent right away to begin the claim process. However, these fires were devastating and many people have been significantly impacted, so the insurance process will take time.
- Document the damage - Only when it is safe to do so, you can try to document the damage by taking photos.
- Ask questions - Throughout the process, you are entitled to know what’s happening. If your agent, insurance company or adjuster don’t provide you with information, or tell you something that you don’t understand, ask questions.
Other Losses People May Experience
While many homes have been lost due to these fires, thankfully many homes were spared. However, those homes may still have suffered damage that can be dealt with through insurance:
- Smoke damage
- Water damage
- Electrical infrastructure, especially due to extreme heat
- Other interior damage due to extreme heat, and potentially subsequent damage due to the anticipated winter storm.
When people are eventually allowed into their neighborhoods and homes, and it is safe to do so, it is recommended that people try to document this damage in the best way possible, and to start the claims process as soon as possible.
If you have questions about insurance, contact the Division of Insurance. While claims need to be filed with the insurance companies, the DOI can assist consumers with questions about insurance and the claims process - our Consumer Services Team is a dedicated unit for helping Coloradans work with and understand their insurance. Please do not wait to contact the Division - we would much rather hear from people sooner rather than later.
About the Division of Insurance:
The Colorado Division of Insurance (DOI), part of the Department of Regulatory Agencies (DORA), regulates the insurance industry and assists consumers and other stakeholders with insurance issues. Visit doi.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7499 / toll free 800-930-3745.
DORA is dedicated to preserving the integrity of the marketplace and is committed to promoting a fair and competitive business environment in Colorado. Consumer protection is our mission. Visit dora.colorado.gov for more information or call 303-894-7855 / toll free 800-886-7675.