Insurance Updates: A Critical and Personal Responsibility, Statewide Poll Finds

September 21, 2004

Californians overwhelmingly consider it their personal responsibility to keep their homeowners insurance current, but do not always place a high priority on updating their policies to meet their changing needs, a new poll has found.

An independent poll commissioned by the Insurance Information Network of California found that 71 percent of Californians said it is their own responsibility to keep their insurance policies up-to-date. That number climbed to 74 percent in San Diego County, where nearly 2,400 homes were lost to wildfire last year.

“Most Californians get it. They know that it’s their home — not the insurer’s, not the agent’s, nor anyone else’s — and that they not only have the ability, but the responsibility, to maintain adequate insurance on their most valuable asset,” said IINC Executive Director Candysse Miller.

Conducted for IINC by the firm of Public Opinion Strategies, the poll surveyed 800 Californians over a three-day period. The survey has a margin of error of 3.46 percent. Of those surveyed, 79 percent own their home, while 18 percent reported that they are renters. In all, 98 percent said that they had homeowner or renters insurance.

The poll sought to monitor public opinion toward homeowner and renters insurance issues, particularly regarding whether homeowners know to update their insurance policies to meet their changing needs. Among the findings:

— 71 percent of respondents said it is their own responsibility to make sure their homeowner insurance policy is kept up-to-date, while 19 percent said it was the responsibility of their insurance agent and 7 percent said it was the responsibility of their insurance company;

— 48 percent said they should update their homeowner insurance policies often or very often, however, 56 percent had not updated their policy in the past year;

— 39 percent said they have looked at their homeowner policy in the past year, while 27 percent said it has been at least three years since they last read their policy; and

— 60 percent of respondents felt that they had enough insurance to cover the total loss of their home and its contents.

“One of the many traumas of a catastrophe like the 2003 wildfires is discovering too late that your insurance has not kept pace with your needs,” Miller said. “The poll shows that Californians understand their critical role in being properly insured. The question remains whether they are following through.”

The approaching anniversary of the wildfires should serve as a reminder to homeowners to take time to compare their insurance limits to their current needs, Miller said.

More than half of California’s 12.5 million homes face wildfire dangers that pose a financial loss potential well in excess of $106 billion, according to state fire statistics. California Department of Forestry research indicates that more than 7.2 million California homes are categorized in the three highest fire risk levels — more than 6 million of which are located in urban areas.

In addition to physical preparation for disaster — which includes preparation of defensible space, fire-safe landscaping, a household evacuation plan and community involvement in fire planning — homeowners are encouraged to have a financial recovery plan that focuses on maintaining a current household inventory, updating insurance policies and keeping copies of it and other critical documents stored away from the home. A free home inventory guide is available on the IINC Web site at www.iinc.org.

IINC is a non-profit, non-lobbying insurance trade association dedicated to helping consumers understand insurance and safety issues. IINC has spokespeople in both Northern and Southern California to discuss this and other insurance topics. To schedule an interview, call media relations at 800-397-1679.

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