Rebuilding the West: Construction Considerations After the Smoke Clears

Richard Glucksman and Ravi Mehta | Chapman Glucksman Dean & Roeb

Wildfires have always been a part of life in the western United States, but, in recent years, the frequency and size of wildfires have become staggering. Oregon, Washington, and—in particular—California face drier conditions, making wildfire season longer and more intense.

In these states, among others, prescribed burns (designed to reduce wildfire ignition sources and spreading potential) have been limited or cancelled altogether as the air pollution emitted by these burns may worsen the impact of COVID-19, a respiratory illness in its essence, as noted recently by Science magazine. These circumstances, further compounded by the severe shortage of housing, have created a “perfect storm” in California, which has seen new and denser construction deeper within wildfire-prone areas, prompting a number of key legislative proposals that will impact the rebuilding process after the smoke clears.

The infamous 2018 Camp Fire in northern California made international headlines for decimating the town of Paradise. While the cause of the Camp Fire was determined to be faulty electrical transmission equipment, unusually dry conditions allowed the fire to spread to just over 150,000 acres, and the fire took 17 days to contain.

Then, five of the 20 largest wildfires in California history occurred during the 2020 wildfire season, according to the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection (Cal Fire). The Camp Fire was eclipsed by the August 2020 Complex Fire, which is the largest wildfire ever recorded in the state, growing to just over one million acres in size until it was finally contained on Nov. 15.

Legislative Response

The Camp Fire and other 2018 wildfires displaced hundreds of thousands of people from their homes throughout California. The unprecedented scale of both the 2018 and the 2020 wildfire seasons in California has spurred legislators in Sacramento to draft a number of important bills that will undoubtedly impact rebuilding efforts.

California AB 38 was prompted by the 2018 California wildfire season and was signed into law by Gov. Gavin Newsom in October 2019. It requires the state fire marshal, the Office of Emergency Services, and Cal Fire to work together to develop and administer a comprehensive wildfire mitigation program, including “cost-effective structure hardening and retrofitting to create fire-resistant homes, businesses, and public buildings.”

Unfortunately, the well-intentioned program has yet to be funded, and may be relying on federal hazard funds from the Federal Emergency Management Agency at a future date. In light of the crippling economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, federal funding is likely the only viable source for this important item of legislation.

California SB 182 would enact new building regulations in high fire-risk areas (as determined by the state fire marshal), including new standards for fire-resistive construction, evacuation routes, defensible space, and available water and firefighting resources. It would also prohibit municipalities from approving new construction in high fire-risk areas unless wildfire reduction standards are satisfied. In effect, the bill would discourage new construction in high fire-risk areas.

After passing through both legislative houses, Newsom vetoed the bill, citing its negative impact on the state’s strained supply of affordable housing. However, the bill is likely to be revisited in the 2020-2021 legislative session.

California AB 1516 is a comprehensive bill that would:

  • Create new defensible-space requirements for both new and existing construction in high fire-risk areas.
  • Create a grant-assistance program for fire-prevention education, inspections, and technical assistance.
  • Direct Cal Fire to develop vegetation management recommendations to minimize flammability.

Additionally, the bill would allow insurers providing course of construction coverage for a project to request, from the owner, municipal certification that the structure to be built complies with existing and new building standards. Newsom vetoed this bill, cautioning that a “one size fits all” approach to wildfire management may not be appropriate, given that each individual community’s needs differ.

California AB 2380 focuses on the development of standards and regulations for a relatively new and growing phenomenon: the rising use of private firefighting personnel, particularly by wealthy homeowners. Several prominent and well-known carriers offer homeowners-insurance policies that provide for private firefighting personnel, as well as preventative services (wildfire hazard inspections and clearing defensible space), and expected post-incident services (clean up and removal of fire retardant and similar substances).

AB 2380 was signed into law by Newsom at the tail end of the 2018 wildfire season, and it now requires Cal Fire, the governor’s Office of Emergency Services, and the board of directors of the FIRESCOPE Program (designed to coordinate firefighting resources among different agencies) to develop standards and regulations for privately contracted fire fighters.

Housing Shortage and New Construction

These legislative efforts are underscored by the worsening housing crisis, which has both strained existing supply and increasingly pushed new construction into areas known as the Wildland Urban Interface (WUI).

WUI areas are designated as either “interface” or “intermix:” Interface WUI areas have little to no wildland vegetation, but are near large wildlands. By contrast, in intermix WUI areas, structures are mixed with wildland vegetation.

A recent study by the U.S. Forest Service found that, as expected, WUI areas are the hardest hit by wildfires. However, the study also found that, contrary to popular belief, wildfires cause greater damage in interface WUI areas than intermix WUI areas- in other words, wildfire damage is greatest where there is little to no wildland vegetation. The study concludes that wildfires in WUI areas are fueled more by human-made fuels as opposed to natural vegetation. These human-made fuels include building materials and landscaping.

It may not come as a surprise that a growing body of scientific literature has ascribed more severe and frequent wildfires to climate change. However, what may be less appreciated is the profound impact of building in the WUI. By 2050, an estimated one million new homes are projected to be built in California WUI areas.

In light of this, as well as the recognition that wildfire risk is determined, in large part, by construction standards and the fire resistivity of materials as opposed to natural vegetation, California has developed a special building code for WUI areas: Chapter 7A of the California Building Code- Materials and Construction Methods for Exterior Wildfire Exposure. California is one of the few states to have a unique building code for WUI areas, and, in light of the recent wildfires, California officials are developing stricter WUI building standards.

The constituents of State Sen. Bill Dodd in Napa County and surrounding areas have faced some of the state’s most devastating wildfires. Dodd is at the forefront of significant fire-related legislation, and was responsible for the passage of the Insurance Adjuster Act of 2019, which sets regulations for insurance-claim adjusting in emergencies.

Dodd also spearheaded the passage of SB 190, which was enacted in late 2019. The law requires, among other things, the state fire marshal to develop suitable materials and products for building in WUI areas with respect to exterior wall siding and sheathing, exterior windows, doors and skylights, vents, decking, treated lumber and ignition-resistant materials, and roofing materials. The state fire marshal’s office found that roofing material is among the most important factors in a structure’s fire resistivity, and slate, metal, and tile roofs have the highest fire resistance rating of “A:”

As of July 1, 2021, wood-shake roofs will no longer be allowed by the California Fire Code. The state fire marshal also cites non-combustible siding as an important building element.

Wildfire-Resistant Construction

A recent study prepared by Headwaters Economics and commissioned by the U.S. Forest Service, WR Foundation, and Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety analyzed cost differentials between traditional construction and wildfire-resistive construction as they relate to the four most fire-critical assemblies of a structure: roofs, exterior walls (including windows and doors), decks, and landscaping. Wildfire-resistant roofing, vents, fascia, and gutters were estimated to cost about 27 percent more than traditional components. However, the wildfire-resistant roofing materials feature lower maintenance requirements and longer lifespans.

Wildfire-resistant exterior walls were estimated to cost 25 percent less than traditional components, due in large part to the substitution of true wood siding with fiber cement siding.

Wildfire-resistant decking involves the use of composite boards, foil-faced bitumen tape on support joists, and the creation of non-combustible space beneath decking. This type of construction was estimated to cost approximately 19 percent more than traditional decking construction. Wildfire-resistant landscaping has the most significant cost difference as compared to traditional landscaping construction, with the former costing about double the latter. Landscaping fabric can minimize the growth of weeds and thus reduce fire hazard, as does the use of rocks instead of mulch.

While certain components of fire-resistant construction may have increased costs, the benefits far outweigh these increases: longer life cycles and less maintenance of the components, and, most importantly, greatly increased fire resistivity of the structure itself and thus its life cycle.

As construction in WUI areas is expected to grow substantially in the coming years, so too are fire-resistive construction standards and material requirements. These standards and requirements are part and parcel of a more comprehensive and deliberate set of land use planning, vegetation management, and emergency-response regulations and policies that California will develop by necessity to meet the growing demand for housing in WUI areas, and also to rein in the staggering costs of wildfire suppression. Thus, construction in WUI areas, and, to a lesser degree, in non WUI areas, will be subject to more exacting standards in the years to come.

As the science of wildfire prevention and suppression advances, so too will the technological innovations that will allow for safer, longer-lasting and ecologically sensitive construction. As in many other fields, California is expected to emerge as a leader in wildfire resistant building and material requirements, and will undoubtedly play a key role in shaping fire policy throughout the United States.

Another Record Wildfire Season: Check Your CGL Policy

Matthew R. Divelbiss and Peter D. Laun | Jones Day

With election season dominating the news cycle, it’s easy to miss the headlines from California and other Western states. “Record Wildfires on the West Coast Are Capping a Disastrous Decade.” “Global warming driving California wildfire trends – study.” “As wildfires rage, climate experts warn: The future we were worried about is here.” And the issue is not limited to the West: “Climate change could shift Pennsylvania’s wildfire season.”

But even before this record-breaking fire season (which is still underway), there was an ominous warning for policyholders: “As Wildfires Get Worse, Insurers Pull Back From Riskiest Areas.” That pullback includes attempts to restrict coverage under commercial general liability (“CGL”) policies, a central part of most companies’ insurance and risk management programs. 

CGL policies provide coverage when a policyholder accidentally causes bodily injury or property damage to a third party. Simply put, if a policyholder accidentally starts a fire that burns down someone’s house, the policyholder would look to its CGL insurer for coverage. But the new concern is that an accidental fire burns thousands of homes and businesses.      

Insurers are running from that risk in the form of “wildfire” exclusions, added as endorsements to both primary and excess CGL policies. For example, one exclusion filed with an insurance commissioner intended for use in policies issued to energy companies states: “This policy does not apply to damages, losses, costs, or expenses arising out of, resulting from or in connection with ‘wildfire’ or ‘wildfire injury’, including any cost the insured becomes legally obligated to pay as reimbursement for fighting, suppressing or bringing under control any ‘wildfire’.”

Here are three issues to think about when faced with a wildfire exclusion:

1. What is your company’s wildfire risk? Insurers are concerned about both products and operations. Do you sell products that could start a wildfire, including products that may be installed in locations that present wildfire risk? Do you perform work (such as power line or pipeline maintenance, railroad maintenance, energy development, or construction) that could somehow cause a wildfire? If a policyholder has limited risk, it may be able to negotiate to remove the exclusion. But if a policyholder’s activities pose risk, getting rid of the exclusion may be difficult. In such a circumstance, the policyholder may need to look to other insurers or insurance markets to obtain coverage, or may have to accept high deductibles and/or sublimated wildfire coverage. Alternatively, companies may need to consider more creative methods of providing for this risk, such as captives. Ultimately, policyholders may need to join together to demand federal and/or state legislative solutions to this problem.

2. Even if your company is stuck with the exclusion, should the exclusion be clarified? As written, the exclusion above purports to apply to any losses “in connection with” a wildfire. Insurers will argue that this is very broad. For example, if a policyholder were sued because its product failed while being used to fight a wildfire, the insurers may point to “in connection with” to deny coverage. Policyholders should negotiate with their insurers to clarify any exclusion and leave no doubt that any exclusion is limited to circumstances where the policyholder is allegedly responsible for causing a wildfire. That’s the risk insurers are trying to avoid. 

3. What about contractual obligations to provide wildfire insurance? Many contracts—for example, for companies that provide right-of-way services to utilities—require that the contractor maintain insurance against wildfires. Whether you’re the “contractor” or the “utility” in this or any analogous scenario, the lack of wildfire insurance presents a problem. For the “contractor,” it could be in breach of its contractual obligations if it cannot provide the agreed upon insurance. For the “utility,” it may not have the financial protection it is counting on the contractor to provide in the event of a wildfire, but the contractor’s work may very well be key to limiting wildfire risk. In such circumstances, the parties will need to work cooperatively to find a solution that protects both parties.

Insurance issues surrounding wildfires will continue to evolve in the years ahead. As they undoubtedly arise in future policy renewals, policyholders should look to their coverage counsel and brokers to navigate this area and make sure that wildfire exclusions, if they can’t be avoided, are both clear and limited. 

Wildfire Took Your Home? Don’t Count on Insurance: Viewpoint

Liam Denning | Claims Journal | April 12, 2019

Own a home? No doubt you’ve insured it. Very sensible of you. But if that home were, say, burned to the ground, then your insurance company probably wouldn’t cover the cost of rebuilding it.

Don’t feel too bad, though. It’s only partly your fault.

Two-thirds of California wildfire victims are under-insured, according to Amy Bach, executive director of consumer advocacy group United Policyholders, speaking at a recent meeting of governor Gavin Newsom’s wildfire commission, held in Santa Rosa. Shocking as that figure seems, it comports with anecdotes I picked up reporting on the aftermath of the recent wildfires earlier this year. Meanwhile, Sarah Paulson of Kevin Paulson Insurance Agency Inc. in San Diego, estimates maybe 60 percent of policyholders are under-insured.

Now a new study titled “Minding the Protection Gap,” just published in the Connecticut Insurance Law Journal, concludes the prevalence of under-insurance among American homeowners might be closer to 80 percent. Kenneth Klein, a professor at California Western School of Law, bases that estimate partly on a report from the California Department of Insurance, prepared in the wake of the 2007 wildfires, that recently became public record. Remarkably, this found that even when homeowners had purchased extended coverage, 57 percent of such policies fell short.

Summing up his study over the phone, Klein calls homeowner insurance “a really weird market; people think they bought a Cadillac when they really bought a Yugo.”

By and large, homeowners think they do have adequate coverage in the event of a catastrophe – and that’s where they take a share of the blame. Standard policies haven’t offered “guaranteed replacement coverage” for several decades. But unless the homeowner takes the time to read the mind-numbing policy documents or ask the right questions, they generally assume they’re good if the sky falls.

Before piling onto this feckless homeowner, though, ask yourself a question: Do you know how much it would cost to rebuild your home? Didn’t think so.

Most likely, you’re relying on an estimate from your insurance agent. Typically, those are derived from sophisticated software tools such as Verisk Analytics Inc.’s 360Value or CoreLogic Inc.’s RCT. Insurance is the original big-data business, compiling myriad items of information to judge probabilities and costs; these tools are immense databases of such things as local labor rates, materials prices, storage costs and many other line items.

No software can accurately predict every contingency, though; especially if, for example, a wildfire burns down a whole neighborhood and surge pricing kicks in. More importantly, software doesn’t write insurance, companies do. And the incentives in homeowner insurance tend to skew one way.

Only a small proportion of homes are sold each year, capping the size of the market for policies. Customers tend to be ignorant of the true cost of reconstruction. And when disputes arise, courts tend to effectively side with the insurance provider – after all, the homeowner signed up for the coverage stipulated in their contract. In short, the homeowner tends to bear all the risk of under-insurance while usually being ignorant of that risk. Plus, thinking catastrophe a very remote possibility, they’re more motivated to keep their monthly insurance bill low than to cure their ignorance.

So there can be little incentive for an insurance provider to invest time and money in a more-thorough assessment of a home’s particular risks. It’s tempting to instead enter fewer parameters to the software tools to estimate coverage and simply quote the most competitive premium they can. Klein ran an experiment on his own home, getting replacement-cost estimates from six insurers and two software tools, involving different levels of detail. They ranged from $512,000 to more than $1.1 million.

One way of addressing this problem is better-educating the customer, such as with tools alerting them to potential under-insurance. Meanwhile, Klein recommends requiring insurers to quote a price for guaranteed replacement coverage. Would those premiums be higher? Probably much higher, although providers could also compete on them. More importantly, they would signal to homeowners the true cost of protecting their home – and they could then choose to accept it or go with a lower quote for standard insurance, with the clear understanding they bear the risk of less-than-adequate coverage. “This will reconnect risk creation and risk allocation,” Klein writes.

California’s wildfires didn’t create this market failure; just revealed it. The enormous claims arising from the past two wildfire seasons – some $25 billion – are having an impact on pricing and availability already. At that same commission meeting in Santa Rosa, Joel Laucher, chief deputy commissioner of the California Department of Insurance, said complaints about higher premiums or difficulty renewing coverage in the highest-risk counties have jumped by 224 percent and 573 percent, respectively, since 2010. Meanwhile, over the past five years, there has been a 51 percent increase in policies written for homes in wildfire-prone areas under California’s FAIR program – insurance so bare-bones the website states up top it should only be used as “a last resort.”

In many respects, the wildfires expose the true costs of climate change and how they intersect with people’s choices about where and how they live; choices often made out of necessity or made at a time when phrases like “global warming” seemed utterly abstract. Mitigating wildfire risk is, of course, central to addressing this, but so is reform of insurance, society’s ingenious method of pooling risk. Pushing the industry to provide better incentives for, say, hardening homes and communities must be a priority for California – and, indeed, any other state facing rising risks from a changing climate. Making those risks, and their costs, crystal clear to consumers would be a good start.


Wildfire Considered One Occurrence Despite Damaging Numerous Properties

Christina Phillips | Property Insurance Coverage Law Blog | November 29, 2018

A recent decision by the Supreme Court of Wisconsin1 might predict how other courts would analyze coverage under commercial general liability insurance policies for wildfires. In May 2013, a fire broke out on forest land owned by Lyme St. Croix Forest Company. The fire burned nearly 7,500 acres over the course of three days and damaged real and personal property owned by various individuals and businesses.

The fire was alleged to have begun within a piece of logging equipment owned by Ray Duerr Logging, LLC (“Duerr”). At the time of the fire, Duerr was insured by Secura under a commercial general liability policy with a $2 million aggregate limitation. The policy also contained a logging endorsement, the per-occurrence limit was reduced to $500,000 for property damage due to fire arising from logging or lumbering operations. Secura believed that the $500,000 policy limit applied, rather than the $2 million aggregate limit and filed a declaratory judgment action.

The Supreme Court of Wisconsin was presented with determining whether the fire was a single occurrence for purposes of the CGL policy, or whether there was a new occurrence each time the fire crossed a property line. The court began by looking at the policy language, which defined “occurrence” as “an accident, including continuous or repeated exposure to substantially the same general harmful conditions.” The court then looked to the “cause theory” which provides “where a single uninterrupted cause results in all of the injuries and damage, there is but one ‘accident’ or ‘occurrence.’ ” If the cause and results are so simultaneous or closely linked in time and space as to be considered by the average person as one event, then only a single event has taken place.

In concluding that the fire was a single occurrence, the court noted that the fire burned continuously for three uninterrupted days in a discrete area caused by a single precipitating event. The court believed that the average person would consider this one event regardless of how many properties lines the fire crossed. In that regard, the Supreme Court of Wisconsin believed that the number of properties damaged by the fire was irrelevant – whether one person, or multiple persons owned the 7,500 acres did not determine the number of occurrences.

Additionally, the Wisconsin Supreme Court disagreed with the court of appeals determination that there was an occurrence each time the fire – fueled and expanded by the consumption of new materials – spread to a new piece of real property and caused damage. The Wisconsin Supreme Court held that such a conclusion would result in an unfathomably large number of occurrences, an interpretation which would cause an unreasonable result under the policy. As such, the Wisconsin Supreme Court concluded there was a single occurrence, subject to the $500,000 policy limit.
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1 Secura Ins. v. Lyme St. Croix Forest Co., LLC, 918 N.W. 2d 885 (WI. Oct. 30, 2018).

Northern California Wildfires — Important Insurance Coverage Considerations

Edward P. Sangster and Paul C. Fuener | K&L Gates | October 20, 2017

The ongoing Northern California wildfires are already the most destructive in the state’s history. In addition to the tragic loss of dozens of lives, California officials have reported that at least 5,700 structures have been destroyed. The economic impact is enormous, and many businesses, particularly in California’s Wine Country, have suffered major losses. Affected businesses likely may have insurance coverage in place to assist with rebuilding and repair of damaged structures, lost production and business income, extra expenses incurred as a result of the wildfire’s impact, and potentially lost income as a result of damage to suppliers and customer locations, including “attraction properties” that draw business to the area.

It is important that businesses impacted by the wildfires understand their potential insurance rights to maximize an insurance recovery in the event a business makes a claim. The wildfires will give rise to a variety of individualized issues, which will vary depending on each insured business’s particular circumstances. The following checklist provides a general overview of selected issues that may be relevant to such claims.

IDENTIFYING POSSIBLE COVERAGE

The most common source of responsive coverage for most businesses is likely to be the first-party coverage insuring the assets of the business. While there are standard insurance industry forms for the coverage, some insurers have issued tailored policies to meet an insured’s particular risk scenarios. Evaluation of specific policy language by reference to relevant law is critical.

Businesses may have first-party coverage that includes the following specific elements:

• “Property damage” coverage for damage or complete destruction of any property resulting from fire or another insured peril that may be classified as “insured property” under the policy, including buildings and other structures, equipment, supplies, and other personal property.

• “Business interruption” coverage, which generally covers the insured’s loss of earnings or revenue resulting from property damage caused by an insured peril but often leads to significant disputes regarding the proper quantification of the insured loss.

• “Contingent business interruption” coverage, which generally covers the insured with respect to losses, including lost earnings or revenue as a result of damage to property of a supplier, customer, or some other business partner or entity — even where the insured’s own property is not itself damaged.

• “Attraction property” coverage, which is a sub-category of contingent business interruption coverage that may apply where an insured business — such as a hotel or restaurant — suffers loss of income as a result of damage to a designated “attraction property,” such as a nearby sports venue, theme park, or convention center.

• “Extra expense” coverage, which generally covers the insured for certain extra expenses incurred by the insured as a result of an insured event — e.g., fire damage to the insured’s property or to a contingent business interruption property — and in order to resume normal operations and mitigate other losses.

• “Ingress and egress” coverage, which generally covers the insured when access to a business premises or location is blocked for a time.

• “Civil authority” coverage, which generally covers the insured for losses arising from an order of a governmental authority that interferes with normal business operations. Similar to contingent business interruption coverage, civil authority coverage may apply even when there is no damage to the insured’s property.

• “Service interruption” coverage, which generally covers the insured for losses related to electric or other power supply interruption.

• “Advance payments” may be expressly required under the terms of a commercial property policy, even if the full extent of the insured loss is still being adjusted by the insurance company. Such advance payments can be important where a business cannot afford a protracted adjustment period.

• “Claim preparation” coverage, which generally covers the insured for the costs associated with compiling and certifying a claim.

COMMON INSURER RESPONSES

In response to insurance claims resulting from the California wildfires, insurers may raise a number of potential limitations or restrictions on coverage for a business’s claims. Here are just a few common issues raised by insurers, particularly when faced with large claims:

• There was no covered business interruption. Insurers will often take a very narrow view of what constitutes a business interruption, sometimes arguing that a complete cessation of operations is necessary to support a claim. The insurer may also dispute the necessity or cause of the interruption. For example, the insurer may argue that at least some part of the interruption or reduction in an insured business was the result of an unrelated business decision by the company, or the consequence of an economic downturn, and it was not caused solely by fire damage to insured property.

• The claim is for losses beyond the allowed recovery period. Policies sometime include provisions specifying that it only covers loss of income and related expenses for a specified period of time after an insured event occurs. If the policy does not define that period, it may be tied to the time it would take your company, employing reasonable mitigation efforts, to resume normal business operations under the circumstances. In view of the magnitude of the California wildfires and the number of properties affected, the length of time it will take to repair property and resume normal business operations may be longer than the length of time had the claim been from an isolated event affecting a single facility.

• The claim is subject to a per-occurrence deductible. Many policies have a per-occurrence deductible or other self-insurance features that may reduce the amount of coverage available, depending on how the number of occurrences issue is addressed. For example, there may be disputes about whether each fire constituted a separate occurrence. This issue can also impact the amount of per-occurrence policy limits that may be available to an insured business.

CLAIM PRESENTATION

Most policies include specific provisions for presenting a claim. The manner in which a claim is presented can have a significant impact upon recovery. This cannot be understated. Policyholders should be proactive in assembling an insurance recovery team, including working with accountants and claim professionals as well as insurance coverage counsel. At a minimum, a policyholder should consider the following common policy provisions:

• Notice of Loss. Most policies require the insurer be notified as soon as practicable or within a specified time frame after circumstances that may lead to a claim. Policyholders should seek to notify all potential insurers.

• Proof of Loss. Property policies generally require a sworn proof of loss summarizing the amount and extent of the damage or loss. The insurer may require this proof of loss within a specified timeframe, though it is not uncommon for insurers to agree to extend this deadline. A policyholder should consider requesting a written agreement extending the time for submission of a proof of loss (and potentially other policy conditions) depending on the nature of the loss.

• Suit Limitation. Policies may include “suit limitation” provisions, which provide that an action to recover under a policy is barred if not initiated by a certain timeframe. In some states, these provisions are not enforceable, while in other states, they are enforceable. Therefore, businesses should consult counsel to determine the limitations period that may be applicable to their claim.

CONCLUSION

Businesses that have suffered losses because of the California wildfires should not overlook the significant financial protection that may be provided through their insurance policies. Businesses should act carefully and proactively to maximize coverage. Experienced insurance coverage counsel is often needed to assess the viability and strength of a policyholder’s claim, in dealing with the insurers’ loss adjusters, and in maximizing the policyholder’s potential insurance recovery. K&L Gates has represented clients in dealing with claims arising from many types of natural disasters and perils, including fires, hurricanes, and floods, as well in other complex insurance claims for over 30 years. The firm maintains a group dedicated to assisting policyholders in assessing and prosecuting insurance coverage claims.