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Hawaii News

Insurance policies should cover lava-related fire

  • JAMM AQUINO / JAQUINO@STARADVERTISER.COM

    Lava overruns the garden and yard of a house on Luana Street in Leilani Estates on Monday. Hawaii island residents whose homes were destroyed by lava should be able to recover money for fire damage from their homeowners insurance policies.

Hawaii island residents whose homes were destroyed by lava should be able to recover money for fire damage from their homeowners insurance policies.

The state is urging Pahoa residents affected by the volcanic eruption to contact their insurance agents to find out what exactly is covered under their policies, which vary among insurers.

The eruption had destroyed 35 structures, mostly homes, as of late Monday.

INSURANCE COVERAGE FOR LAVA FLOW DAMAGE

In general, if a home or structure is damaged by fire from a lava flow, the damage may be covered under homeowners’ insurance policies as a fire peril. However, each company’s policy is different. Homeowners should contact insurers immediately to review their coverage. To make the claims process easier:

>> Keep insurance policy in a safe place.

>> Take it with you in an evacuation.

>> Homeowners should inventory their belongings using pictures, video or the National Association of Insurance Commissioners’ MyHome Scr.APP.book app.

>> Remove as many things as possible from homes to mitigate the amount of damage.

Source: Hawaii Insurance Division

”Those impacted by the mandatory evacuations, fire, smoke or noxious fumes may be able to start a claim,” said Insurance Commissioner Gordon Ito, adding that policies might require notification within a certain time frame. “We don’t want residents to have lingering questions about their policies and not take advantage of a benefit that they may not be aware of.”

While volcanic eruption is typically excluded on a regular homeowners policy, fire is a covered peril, said Tony Abad, vice president of sales and market at First Insurance Co. of Hawaii.

“When lava gets close to a house, it actually catches on fire. That’s the way with Hawaii’s volcano. Before it gets to the house, the house catches on fire because of the heat, he said. Since the fire was caused by heat, it will likely be covered by insurance. But first you need to have bought insurance.

Most local insurers, including First Insurance, do not issue policies in high-risk lava zones.

Those high-risk properties may be covered by the Hawaii Property Insurance Association, the state run insurance program. Some insurance brokers issue high-risk policies through out-of-state companies.

“Policies shouldn’t vary from zone to zone, but pricing will. If you’re in a higher-risk area, it’s going to cost more. It’s not only applicable to this situation, but everyone who’s a homeowner or renter in preparation they really should understand what coverages they have and don’t have,” Ito said.

For more information, go to cca.hawaii.gov/ins/resources or call the Insurance Division toll-free at 974-4000, ext. 62790#.

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