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Anyone else having difficulty with fire insurance claims?

Anyone else having difficulty with fire insurance claims?

  • Updated

The Glass Fire dealt me both professional and personal impact. My home in St. Helena was damaged. My business, the Wine Country Inn, also in St. Helena was forced to close for 20 days, while also suffering significant cancellations of future reservations.

Dealing with my home insurer was stellar and as expected. Currently and thankfully, my home is mostly repaired and nearly fully funded by the insurer. As for the Wine Country Inn, the business insurer adopted a posture to stonewall, to stall, and to shift positions to prevent just payment on the claim.

The purpose of this letter is to raise the profile of insurance company bad behavior on small businesses in the Napa Valley, as a result of claims related to the variety of fires.

On Sept. 27, the Wine Country Inn was victimized by the Glass Fire. Luckily, the actual fire was stopped 250 yards away from the hotel by a heroic CalFire team at the Napa River before it leapfrogged to the west over the hotel and Highway 29 to continue its path elsewhere, leaving the hotel with minor damage from smoke, soot, and ash.

As a result of the fire, the hotel was closed between Sept. 27 and Oct. 16 due to law enforcement’s physical barriers and security mandates. Residually, the direct result of the Glass Fire, like the Tubbs Fire impact in 2017, had at least three months of lasting business interruption. The Wine Country Inn suffered from significant cancellations and a slow recovery to capture new business momentum through October and November before December, when Napa County COVID-related mandates prevented further business activities after the first week. The economic damage is in the hundreds of thousands.

Although the hotel is properly insured and there is justification for a physical damage and business interruption claim, collection on the claim has been a gigantic nightmare, even after following all of the terms and conditions of the policy and responding to the needs of the insurer.

Is this behavior by any insurers shared by other fire victims in the Napa Valley? Are there other multi-national insurers using tactics to bully and exploit small businesses, even when the terms of the policy are clearly fulfilled and justified for payment?

As a result of this experience and potentially the experiences of other Napa County businesses, maybe a review by the Register and the St. Helena Star of insurer behavior post-Glass Fire should be considered for exposure to the state insurance commissioner and other government agencies?

Rick Swig

St. Helena

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