Wildfires were the big story in the Western U.S. in 2020.
And a big underlying theme in those stories is what was being done to deal with them.
One of the top stories in Insurance Journal’s Western region was when California Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara in November announced a mandatory one-year moratorium on insurance companies non-renewing or cancelling residential property insurance policies, a move he said was aimed at helping 2.1 million policyholders affected to date by the record 2020 wildfire season.
Lara’s action implemented a California law that he authored in 2018 while serving as state senator to provide temporary relief from non-renewals to residents living within or adjacent to a declared wildfire disaster.
Following are Insurance Journal’s other most read stories for the year.
A wrongful death lawsuit was filed over the drowning of “Glee” actor Naya Rivera, who died during the summer while boating with her 4-year-old son on a California lake.
The suit blames Ventura County and managers of Lake Piru for her accidental death on July 8 at the lake northwest of Los Angeles. It was filed on behalf of her son, Josey Hollis Dorsey, by Ryan Dorsey, Rivera’s ex-husband and the boy’s father and guardian, and also on behalf of her estate.
Insurance Journal readers flocked to an article about an Oregon man who crashed a Tesla while going about 100 mph, destroying the vehicle, a power pole and starting a fire when some of the hundreds of batteries from the vehicle broke windows and landed in residences. Dylan Milota was driving a 2019 Tesla S in late November when he lost control, left the road and traveled more than 300 feet before stopping, according to Corvallis Police Lt. Ryan Eaton.
The car sheared off a power pole at the base, knocked down two trees and a telephone junction box, police said. Batteries tossed from the Tesla in the collision landed in a person’s lap and on a bed in a nearby residence, causing the bedding to ignite, police said. Police said hundreds of batteries used to power the vehicle were strewn around in the crash.
Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler’s fine and cease-and-desist order against Armed Citizens Legal Defense Network Inc. for illegally acting as an insurer in the state was upheld by an administrative law judge.
Kreidler in March ordered Armed Citizens to stop acting as an insurer. Armed Citizens sells memberships that include self-defense insurance to cover bail and legal costs incurred in conjunction with using force against another person. In May 2020, Kreidler fined Armed Citizens $200,000 for law violations.
California Insurance Co. filed an “Anti-SLAPP” motion the company says is to protect its First Amendment rights in its long-running legal battle with the California Department of Insurance and Lara.
Anti-SLAPP laws (Strategic Lawsuit Against Public Participant) create mechanisms to combat what are considered to be abusive court proceedings. California has a broad Anti-SLAPP statute regarding First Amendment rights. The SLAPP lawsuit requires the California Department of Insurance and Lara to demonstrate a probability of prevailing in his application against CIC, for which the CDI and Lara have filed a rehabilitation plan.
The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that an undocumented worker is entitled to permanent disability.
The court ruled on Nov. 23 that an undocumented worker suffering trauma due to a workplace accident is entitled to permanent total disability, despite a third party insurance administrator’s insistence that his inability to work was due solely to his immigration status. The court found the worker’s disability was outlined in medical reports, and that Nevada’s workers’ comp system covers injured employees regardless of immigration status, and is not preempted by the Immigration Reform and Control Act.
The University of California system reached a proposed $73 million settlement with seven women who accused a former gynecologist of sexual abuse.
As part of the class-action lawsuit, more than 6,600 patients of Dr. James Heaps could receive part of the settlement, even if they have not accused the former University of California, Los Angeles, gynecologist of abuse. The proposed agreement, which includes several mandated reforms at UCLA, was filed in mid-November in federal court.
California voters strengthened data privacy protections by approving a ballot measure that supporters tout as a model for other states.
California became the first state to pass a sweeping digital privacy law in 2018, viewed as the strongest of its kind in the United States. It gave Californians the right to know what information companies collect about them online, get that data deleted and opt out of the sale of their personal information. Proposition 24 is aimed at expanding that law and closing some of the loopholes that big businesses have found to get around it, supporters say. The measure received more than 56% support.
More items were proposed for the California Export List than in recent memory, including coverages for cyber, parametric products, earthquake, and COVID-19.
The California Department of Insurance held an Export List hearing via telephone on Dec. 10. The Export List is a list of coverages, maintained by the CDI, which are eligible for placement in the surplus line market without the necessity of a broker obtaining three declinations from the admitted market. Coverages are placed on the export list after the CDI holds a public hearing and determines that the coverages are not readily available in the admitted market.
Workers’ comp virus claims rose throughout the year. More than 50,000 COVID-19 claims had been reported to the state Division of Workers’ Compensation by mid-November, including 282 death claims, according to the California Workers’ Compensation Institute.
That translated to one out of every nine California job injury claims reported for accident year (AY) 2020. The California workers’ comp COVID-19 monthly claim count peaked in July. The latest figures showed that after climbing rapidly over the first seven months of this year and hitting a record 14,453 claims in July, the number of COVID-19 workers’ comp claims reported to the DWC began to dwindle.
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