In an earlier editorial, we called for clarification and urged Oklahoma insurance companies to provide details of homeowner coverage regarding earthquake damage within days of purchasing a policy.
Most homeowner policies do not include earthquake coverage. If a homeowner wants coverage, it generally requires the purchase of an earthquake endorsement in addition to the normal property policy.
On March 3, Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak issued a statewide bulletin to insurers that cited data indicating an “extraordinary denial rate of earthquake claims.” At that time, Doak was concerned insurers could be denying claims.
While we don’t know the merits of each insurance case, only eight of around 100 earthquake claims were paid in 2014.
If insurance companies are failing to pay legitimate claims, our insurance commissioner needs to reveal that and has every right to act.
Homeowners were on their own to wade through the fine print to determine their coverage. Ultimately, coverage of man-made earthquakes — those caused by injection wells — would depend on the insurance company’s interpretation of policy details.
The insurance commissioner’s major announcement on Tuesday — giving insurance companies 45 days to write policyholders and clarify what earthquake damage is and is not covered by their policy — is exactly the kind of constructive, proactive action that’s needed. This required communication can be helpful to consumers in a very tangible way.
“I issued this bulletin so that, hopefully, Oklahoma consumers get a better idea of exactly what kind of coverage they have for earthquakes,” Doak said in a statement. “The goal here is consumer education and protection.”
In the last two years, the insurance commissioner’s office has been involved in addressing a few questions about claims for earthquake damage that has already occurred. That’s good and important, but that’s reactive. The new bulletin Tuesday is proactive in a very meaningful way.
In the areas being shaken by the swarms of light earthquakes, there’s growing concern — almost a tangible fear — about whether Oklahoma will experience a major and devastating earthquake, and if so, what will happen to the people and property affected.
The insurance commissioner’s call for clarification helps address those concerns and fears by, at least, providing people with useful and factual information.