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Wildfire losses are reminder to perform annual home insurance policy checkup



By Scott J. Kipper, Insurance Commissioner

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s insurance carriers have reported to the Nevada Division of Insurance that they have received around 600 claims as a result of the Caughlin Fire. The dollar amount of these claims, mostly due to fire, wind or smoke damage, is estimated to exceed $16 million.

The Caughlin Fire is a reminder to us all to call our insurance agent or company and ask for an annual policy review. This will ensure appropriate and adequate coverage is in place to protect our assets.

That’s why I’m asking you to join me in making a New Year’s resolution to perform an annual policy review of your home or renters insurance policy.

First, make a home inventory. Document any new additions or subtractions to your home or your belongings made within the last year. Did you build a fence? Upgrade to hardwood flooring? How about that 46-inch, high-definition television you just bought on Black Friday? Include that as well.

Before calling your agent or insurance company, read your policy and declarations page with current coverage levels.

When you call, ask for an “annual policy review.” During the review disclose the changes you noted while completing your home inventory and ask if the current insurance coverage is adequate.

Other questions to ask during your policy review:
– Have any changes have been made to the coverage levels since the last renewal; if so, by whom and why?

– Is the coverage for replacement cost or actual cash value? Replacement cost is the amount it would take to repair or replace your home or possessions. Actual cash value is the amount it would take to repair or replace damage to your home or possessions after deducting for depreciation.

– Some valuables require special coverage. Tell your agent about any big ticket items such as electronics or jewelry and ask if you need special coverage.

– Ask what risks are covered and what are excluded. Some policies only cover “named perils” while other policies provide broader coverage. Make sure you are comfortable with the perils your policy covers and excludes.

Flood and earthquake damage is not typically covered by a standard home or renters policy. Nevada is the fourth most earthquake-prone state in the country, and damage from an earthquake is excluded from most policies. Your current insurance carrier may offer earthquake or flood coverage for an additional premium; ask your agent or insurance company to help you evaluate your options.

Be aware that your home insurance does not protect your car from damage, even if it is parked in your garage when it sustains damage. Damage to your car will only be covered by the comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.

If you are a renter, and you do have a renters insurance policy, don’t forget to do your annual policy review.

However, if you don’t have a renters insurance policy you should consider purchasing one. Your landlord’s insurance policy will generally protect the structure but not your belongings. A renters insurance policy is inexpensive and typically protects your possessions from all the perils that a traditional home insurance policy would.

Insurance can be confusing. To help consumers better understand their coverage, the Nevada Division of Insurance has written three guides regarding home insurance to assist consumers: the Nevada Consumer’s Guide to Home Insurance, Nevada Consumer’s Guide to Flood Insurance and the Nevada Consumer’s Guide to Earthquake Insurance. These guides can be found online at doi.nv.gov/consumer.aspx.

Finally, I’d like to say that my heart goes out to our friends and neighbors who sustained damage as a result of the high winds and subsequent fire in Reno. Also, anyone who has a question or needs assistance with an insurance claim can call the division’s team of insurance professionals at (775) 687-0700 or (888) 872-3234.

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