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Prof. Kenneth Klein on the Insurance Crisis Facing Camp Fire Victims

Prof. Kenneth Klein

Reporting from Paradise, Calif., Angel Jennings paints a heartbreaking story on Camp fire evacuees Suzie and Nathan Thomas and their three children as their home, and everything in it was reduced to ashes.

In the article, published in the San Diego Union-Tribune, Jennings describes what’s left of the Thomas’ home and possessions. “The tin roof lies on the yard next to the charred remains of his toddler’s tricycle. Nathan, his wife, Suzie, and the three children fled in their Jeep with a husky, four cats and a change of clothes. Everything else is gone.

“Two cars. The wedding rings they slid onto each other’s fingers this year. The mobile home they bought outright with cash from an inheritance but had not insured.”

Jennings writes that homeowners insurance in wildfire-prone areas can be expensive and drew comment from California Western’s Professor Kenneth Klein, an expert on the subject of underinsurance.

Retirement communities tend to have higher rates of people living in mortgage-free homes and surviving on fixed incomes, Prof. Klein tells Jennings, making them more likely to forgo insurance.

“No data I know of has been accumulated on the Camp fire,” Klein continued. “But I think there’s an even higher than normal incidence of people who have no insurance.”

Prof. Klein’s expertise on the subject of what happens after a family’s home burns to the ground comes not just from his knowledge as a lawyer or professor of law; it emanates equally from personal tragedy, as he lost his own home to a wildfire. In fact, Prof. Klein has counseled hundreds of survivors of fire and has received awards for that work.

More than 17,000 households — including the Thomas family — have registered for assistance from FEMA so far, writes Jennings. Up to now, about 260 households have been approved for the maximum grant of $34,400.

No figure has been released on the total assistance dollars available in response to the Camp fire. Officials said they would offer some grants and connect people to institutions that can provide low-interest loans, but “the grants will be well short of the money to rebuild if someone is completely uninsured,” Prof. Klein said.

Even those who do have coverage might struggle to afford the full cost of rebuilding and replacing everything they have lost, Klein continued.

At the last count, writes Jennings, at least 88 people have died, and 158 remain missing. About 14,000 homes have been destroyed.

For the Thomas family, they have no idea how long they will stay in the tents on the fairgrounds. Or where they will go when it’s time to move on.

Read Angel Jennings’ complete article here: https://www.sandiegouniontribune.com/news/california/la-me-paradise-fire-uninsured-20181129-story.html