Organizations to host insurance forum for residents affected by lava flows

(Image: John Kapono Carter)
PUNA, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

As the number of homes lost to lava since eruptions began climbs to 87, many lower Puna residents are uncertain about what — if anything — they'll have to return to, and how they will be able to rebuild.

On Thursday, several Big Island organizations will be holding a forum for residents affected by lava to discuss and analyze the role their insurance policies could play in their financial futures.

The forum, which will be held at the Hawaiian Shores Community Association Building from 3:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., is being hosted by United Policyholders, Hawaii County Bar Associates, and representatives from Hawaii Public Adjusters. Professionals from all three groups will be available to answer any policy-related questions residents may have.

After the presentation, representatives will also be providing residents with additional sources of information and professional help.

Copyright 2018 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.  (Image: John Kapono Carter)


EQ causes lava eruption emergency

Hawaii-based insurance policy expert and UP volunteer Robert Joslin was the first to brief us on the May 2018 disaster on the Big Island. An underground earthquake triggered lava eruptions and dangerously high levels of Sulphur Dioxide in the Puna region.  Kilauea erupted on May 17th, 2018, sending ash 30,000 feet in the air. Fires, lava flow, airborne particles and evacuations are disrupting many lives and damaging and destroying property.

United Policyholders is guiding Hawaii residents on collecting insurance benefits for damage to homes and businesses and coordinating with local partners to support the recovery effort. Direct lava damage may be excluded from coverage in a typical home policy, but damage caused by any smoke, heat or fires initially emanating from forest fire embers, adjoining trees or shrubbery prior to the immediate arrival of the actual lava can be covered. 

If your property has been damaged or you've incurred expenses due to evacuating, first steps include getting a complete, current copy of your home and/or business insurance policies and start keeping a recovery journal/diary.  UP outlines first steps and a basic approach to navigating an insurance claim, documenting your losses and collecting benefits due under your policies. This publication gives a good run-through of the basic issues related to insurance coverage for lava flow damage.

If problems arise that you can't resolve through negotiation and self help, file a complaint with the state agency that oversees insurance companies that do business in Hawaii.  http://cca.hawaii.gov/ins/consumer/filing_a_complaint/how-to-file-a-complaint-against-all-other-insurers/\

If that doesn't resolve the dispute, contact one of the local policyholder experts that support UP. UP recently led a training webinar for Hawaii attorneys that focused on coverage and claim help for residents whose property has been damaged and/or who've been evacuated and who need insurance support. The webinar was recorded and is available through Hawaii Legal Aid. 

Hawaii residents have insurance legal rights under a Claims Settlement Practices Act explained in this blog about Haw. Rev. Stat. § 431:13-103 (1988/1989).  The Act sets forth:

–Best practices for claims handling
–Prompt investigations and settlement
–Cooperation and communication
–Statutory penalties for bad faith

Additional Information and Related Articles:

About The Blogger

Amy Bach

Amy Bach has been a professional advocate for insurance policyholders since 1984 and an attorney since 1989. While practicing insurance regulatory law and representing clients in litigation matters, she co-founded United Policyholders in 1991. Bach migrated from the private practice of law in 2005 to become the organization's full-time Executive Director and primary spokesperson; shaping and overseeing the Roadmap to Recovery™, Roadmap to Preparedness, and Advocacy and Action programs. She is a nationally-recognized expert on insurance claim and legal matters; frequently interviewed in print and broadcast media, and the author of numerous legal and consumer publications including "The Disaster Recovery Handbook," "WISE UP: The Savvy Consumer's Guide to Buying Insurance," and tips and guides in the UP Claim Help Library.  Recognized by Money Magazine as a Money Hero, Bach has served as an official consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners since 2009 and is in her second term as an appointed member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance. She also currently serves on the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Disaster Preparedness and Response.