Damages and Losses Due to Wildfires
In addition to crop damage or devastation you may also have suffered other losses. The buildings themselves may have succumbed to fire. Production operations had to be suspended and with no power or access you may have lost the wine that was being produced.
Insurance may cover some or all of the damages that were sustained. The types of policies that you have in place and the coverage will help determine protection. Depending on your losses you might need to file more than one claim. For example, you may need to file a commercial business insurance claim for property and another claim for crop damage and loss.
Winery and vineyard owners with damages from the wildfires should contact their insurance providers as soon as possible. If you utilize a broker-agent contact him or her for assistance with filing an insurance claim. Claims must be filed in a timely manner. This is important because if you fail to file within the time-frame allotted in your policy you might be unable to file.
Insurance policies can be very complex. If you own a winery or vineyard you may have the need for various types of coverage and endorsements. There are two main kinds of losses that may be covered in a policy including specified and unspecified perils. Wildfires usually fall under the category of specified perils because the type of peril is listed in the policy.
Policies for commercial property usually use a valuation system known as actual cash value, ACV. In California, the actual cash value is also considered to be the fair market value unless otherwise specified in the policy. There are other valuation methods that may be utilized. Each policy includes the type of valuation method that is used to calculate claims.
General insurance policies only go so far to provide protection. To improve protection, you must purchase endorsements. These are add-ons to the basic policy that provide coverage for specific needs. You may have some additional endorsements included in your policy.
It is important to understand what is and is not covered in your insurance policy before you file a claim. Review a copy of your policy to determine your coverage as well as the deductibles. A deductible is the amount of money that the insured must pay as part of a claim. The amount of the deductible will generally be subtracted from any claim settlement before it is paid.
Crop Loss Coverage
Special coverage is required to protect against crop loss. In the event of a wildfire that destroys or damages crops, your crop policy goes into effect. It is essential that you don’t do anything with the damaged crops until after the insurance adjuster examines the property. Although you may want to plow or remove dead vines, you should not do so. In fact, if you remove or do anything to the damaged vines you might be jeopardizing your claim.
Policies often have strict instructions regarding how to handle crop loss. If there is an urgent need to do something you must communicate that to the provider. The company will send an adjuster more quickly to accommodate your needs. In some cases, the provider will give you permission to plow or remove vines. Make sure you get this in writing before you begin doing any removal or harvest work.
Inventory Your Damages
Immediately following a wildfire, you must determine your damages. Inventory your vineyard to assess your losses. Take photos when possible. Use a map to indicate areas where damage has occurred. Make a list of your losses and damages so you are sure not to leave anything out.
Find all documentation that pertains to your crops. You should provide this along with any other important information to the adjuster when he views your property. If you have a large vineyard and sustained a lot of fire damage you may want to have an aerial survey of the property. This can be extremely helpful when proving the extent of damages.
Tips for Filing a Claim
There are a few tips for vintners and growers when filing insurance claims. Review your insurance policy to verify coverage. Sometimes you might be covered by more than one policy or through more than one provider. If you don’t have a copy of your policy or are unsure about coverage you should contact your agent to discuss the policy and to obtain a copy.
File a claim as soon as possible. Crop loss policies generally include specific time requirements for filing a claim. In many cases, you need to file a claim within 72 hours of the occurrence or of learning about the damaged crops. Keep in mind that your policy has a deductible, which will be subtracted from the amount of your claim.
Take photos and gather as much documentation as you can about your crop loss. Provide this information to the adjuster so that a fair claim settlement is provided. If the settlement does not cover your losses or damages, you have the right to file a dispute. The policy usually includes a dispute process that must be followed. Resolution of crop loss insurance claims can sometimes be complex. An attorney can be helpful to protect your rights and assist in taking legal action should that become necessary.