Before worrying about an insurance claim, first ensure that you and your family, including pets and extended family, have their immediate needs met, particularly medical needs. When you are ready to begin the recovery process, we have outlined a few steps for you to take in working with your insurers to ensure that you receive the maximum benefits under any applicable policies. Continue Reading Steps and Resources to Recover Homeowner Insurance Benefits After a Fire: A Tip-Sheet for Homeowner / Small Business Insurance Claims

shutterstock_223838977 Are You ReadyIt’s a good time to insulate your wine business against getting burned or shaken up in a disaster.

The California wildfire season is well underway. Only a year ago, the Lake County fire destroyed hundreds of homes, thousands of acres and threatened vineyards and wineries. A recent report on climate change predicts that wildfires in the western U.S. and Canada will become more frequent and severe. And the Napa earthquake — only two years ago as of Aug. 24 — reminded us of another constant danger for California residents and businesses, particularly those with costly products like wine in tanks, barrels and bottles.

In the face of these risks, you can take steps now to be sure you have the right insurance and are prepared to get the most out of it if the worst happens.

Continue Reading Insurance for Wildfires and Other Natural Disasters

As Bay Area residents prepared for thousands of football fans and media to descend on their region for the Super Bowl, one began to hear the sorts of rumblings that typically precede big events. Traffic will be terrible. Parking will be worse. Good luck getting a table at a restaurant. Oh, and good luck finding a place a sleep if you’re from out of town.

Former Mayor Willie Brown had advice for the naysayers: Rent your house on Airbnb! “Everyone is going to make a killing, including the private citizens who are smart enough to schedule a vacation paid for by Airbnb’ing their homes.” Continue Reading Insure Your Risk as an Airbnb Host

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As Bay Area residents prepared for thousands of football fans and media to descend on their region for the Super Bowl, one began to hear the sorts of rumblings that typically precede big events. Traffic will be terrible. Parking will be worse. Good luck getting a table at a restaurant. Oh, and good luck finding a place a sleep if you’re from out of town.

Former Mayor Willie Brown had advice for the naysayers: Rent your house on Airbnb! “Everyone is going to make a killing, including the private citizens who are smart enough to schedule a vacation paid for by Airbnb’ing their homes.”

Continue Reading Insure Your Risk as an Airbnb Host

Regular readers of the SFGate website saw two familiar headlines on September 10, 2015. The first – “Northern California wildfire explodes in size” (last accessed September 28, 2015) – would not have been unusual on any summer day in California, particularly in the last four years as an historic drought has ravaged the Western United States. Wildfires, always a feature of the dry season in the West, have increased in size and intensity as the yearly average precipitation levels continue to fall.

The second – “El Niño Odds Rise Again, Tracking to Be a Blockbuster” – was more unusual, and almost certainly more welcome to local readers. The El Niño weather phenomenon, which refers to a band of abnormally warm water in the central equatorial Pacific, is generally associated with large storms in the United States, and the West Coast in particular. News of the impending 2015-2016 El Niño has raised hopes that heavy rains will replenish water supplies that have been devastated by four-plus years of meager rainfall. But this year’s El Niño may have more damaging effects, especially in areas impacted by fire. Continue Reading High Fire Season Followed by El Niño Sets California Policyholders On Collision Course With Property Insurers

Last weekend’s Napa earthquake served as a wake-up call for everyone living and working in the Greater Bay Area. As with all natural disasters, after the immediate clean-up is over the analysis will begin as to how to make buildings safer and how to prevent and minimize injuries and damage.

But if you have a business that was affected by the earthquake, now is the time to be looking at your insurance policies, even while you are still sweeping up the debris and are wondering what the extent of the damage is.

If you have earthquake coverage, your insurance company can be an important resource. Insurers have experience handling disasters of all types. They have a large pool of consultants and experts who can help minimize the effect of the earthquake on your business – by providing resources to help with clean-up, estimating the extent of the damage, finding contractors quickly, and generally helping you through the crisis period.

However, insurance companies don’t know your business or your premises nearly as well as you do. Insurance adjusters – particularly in times of disasters when they are flooded with claims – will sometimes try to impose “cookie-cutter” solutions on unique situations. This could be especially true in the Wine Country, given the unique nature of the items damaged, such as historic buildings or high-quality wine. An area such as Napa, replete with wineries and specialty boutiques, restaurants and businesses, is ripe for coverage disputes over the value of damaged property, even after the scope of the damage has been agreed.

Continue Reading The Napa Earthquake – The Time To Think About Insurance Coverage Is Now

The 6.0 Napa earthquake has altered business in an around the Napa Valley, and Law360 called to ask my thoughts on earthquake insurance.  While the article requires a subscription, my key point is:

“This earthquake is a reminder of what we’ve been told for some time now — that the odds of a major earthquake in Northern California over the next 20 years are very high,” said Dennis Cusack, a partner at Farella Braun & Martel LLP. “It’s a very real risk, and in some cases, a greater risk than a fire on a property. It should lead businesses to at least consider the costs and benefits of earthquake insurance.” 

Read the full article here (subscription required).

Over the past few days, there has been much hand-wringing over the Second Circuit’s decision in Mehdi Ali v. Federal Insurance Co., __ F.2d __ (2d Cir. 2013) in which the court declined to extend the holding of Zeig v. Massachusetts Bonding & Insurance Co. , 23 F.2d 665 (2d Cir. 1928), to the specific facts of the case before it. Commentators are chalking it up as a major victory for insurers, claiming that policyholders have now lost a key precedent, one which had previously allowed them to argue that an excess insurer can be required “drop down” to cover losses below its attachment point.

Not so fast.

As an initial matter, the Zeig case does not stand for the proposition described above. The Zeig case held that an excess insurer could be required to pay losses above its attachment point, if the insured had actually sustained those losses. In Zeig, an insured suffered a property loss which exceeded the limits of his primary policy, but settled with that insurer for less than the full primary policy limits. The Second Circuit reasoned that, because the insured could demonstrate that it had actually suffered property losses in excess of the primary limits, the excess insurer could be required to pay that portion of the loss which exceeded its attachment point.

Continue Reading Recent Media Coverage Overstates Impact of New Second Circuit Case Regarding “Drop-Down” Issue

A new case from Oregon deals with a recurring problem in construction defect litigation—the absence of clear dates in the complaint regarding when damage is alleged to have occurred. Frequently, a plaintiff will allege that defects in a construction project have caused property damage to other elements of the project, but the complaint is often silent as to when the damage allegedly began. We have long argued that, since the duty to defend exists if there is any “potential” of covered liability, there is a potential that damage happened before that project was completed, or at any time after completion, triggering all policies in that time frame. This implicates the policies in effect both during the course of operations and after operations are completed. This point is particularly important if some or all of the policies exclude liability falling within the completed operations hazard. This was the situation in Breese Homes, Inc. v. Farmers Insurance Exchange, 353 Or. 112 (2012). There, the court rejected Farmers argument that a claim was excluded by a “products/completed operations hazard” exclusion unless the insured could produce facts showing that damage in fact occurred prior to the completion of the project. The Oregon Supreme Court ruled that the duty to defend was governed by the complaint, which clearly encompassed the possibility that damage occurred prior to completion, and that the insured had no burden to establish any additional facts to support that potential.

While Breese involves a simple and straightforward application of established duty to defend law, the case provides helpful authority in countering the specious positions taken by many carriers on this issue.

We hope your business did not sustain any direct property damage.  Even if that’s the case, do not fail to consider that you may have insurance coverage for financial losses caused by the storm.

Continue Reading Superstorm Sandy: Financial Loss May Be Covered Even Without Property Damage