Montecito Mudslide Disaster
Mudslide Destruction and Flood Insurance Coverage
The Montecito Mudslides
On Monday, January 9th, 2018, a destructive debris flow in Montecito has caused the deaths of at least 20 people and millions of dollars in damages. Some 30 people were treated at Santa Barbara Cottage hospital for injuries sustained during the disaster. Although officials are still assessing the mudslide, it is believed that at least 450 residences, homes, and commercial buildings have been damaged. Santa Barbara County has this MAP to help residents in the area.
Federal Disaster Assistance
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has expanded its disaster assistance in response to the tremendous amount of damage in the southern areas of Santa Barbara County. According to the Governors office, FEMA made changes, adding funds, to the Major Disaster Declaration because of the Thomas Fire, which ripped through the counties of Santa Barbara and Ventura.
FEMA has approved assistance for some homeowners who have had major infrastructure damage and would likely need repair. Santa Barbara residents can apply for financial assistance with FEMA, or Click Here.
Many homeowners could be excluded from filing an insurance claim due to the way some insurance policies are written. In many instances, floods, mudslides and/or mudflows are specifically excluded. If you have been denied for a Montecito mudslide claim or a Montecito flood claim, there may be a way to appeal.
It could be argued that the December 2016 Thomas Fire was the predominate force in a property damage loss regarding the Montecito Mudslides; homeowners could assert that “burn scars” from the Thomas Fire created areas in which water collected, ran across the surface, and resulted in a mudslide. The areas in which the fire took place were dry from ash and soot, which deprived the ground of regular soil properties, ultimately leading to bare ground without vegetation.
California Proximate Cause Doctrine
In California, the Efficient Proximate Cause Doctrine can sometimes override an initial insurance claim denial if multiple causes of loss occurred in a particular order. Specifically, in Sabella v. Wiser (1963) 59 Cal. 2d 21, 31-23, the California Supreme Court established the general rule stating:
“In determining whether a loss is within an exception in a policy, where is a concurrence of different causes, the efficient cause–the one that sets others in motion–is the cause to which the loss should be attributed, though the other causes may follow it, and operate more immediately in producing the disaster.”
More recently, a California Court of Appeal issued its decision in Vardanyan v. Amco Insurance Co. (2015) 243 Cal. App 4th 779., reaffirming that if there are multiple causes of damage to a property, the loss is covered if the predominant cause is covered in the policy; however, if the predominant cause is not covered, the loss is not covered (Garvey v. State Farm Fire & Casualty Co., Cal.Rptr. 292, 770 P.2d 704.).
If the predominate cause can be attributed to the Thomas Fire, insurance companies may need to approve insurance claims or insurance appeals to denials because of the Efficient Proximate Cause Doctrine. Because insurance companies almost always exclude flood and mudslides from their property policies, using the Thomas Fire as the predominate cause could be an uphill battle in trying to open a claim or filing an appeal on a mudslide/flood denial.
Speak with a Property Damage Attorney
If you have been denied, or want to open a claim with your insurance company, speak with our property damage attorneys today. The Damage Attorneys may be able to assist you in your time of need with Flood, Mudslide, and Fire damages associated with Thomas fire and Montecito Mudslides.
For a Free Consultation, give us a call at (800) 683-4959
This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.