Homeowners with unresolved insurance claims stemming from the 1994 Northridge earthquake have a little more than two months to take advantage of a state law that allows them to file lawsuits against their insurance companies, state and county officials said Monday.
Most insurance policies give the policyholder one year to file a lawsuit. This law extends that, allowing people to recover damages that weren't known about until a year or more after the disaster.
The deadline to use the law is Dec. 31. People are eligible only if their previous attempt to file a lawsuit was denied because the one-year period had passed.
"Go home tonight and get your home checked," said Dale Washington of Community Assisting Recovery, a nonprofit organization aiding homeowners with insurance claims. "We're in the ninth inning, and there's no extra innings."
The reminder about the law's deadline was made at a news conference in North Hills, attended by representatives from insurance companies, the Los Angeles County Commission on Insurance, the state Department of Insurance, the California Earthquake Authority and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
James Robie of State Farm Insurance said, "No business, insurance or otherwise, can survive as an industry leader unless it delivers on its promises."
In a written statement, Robie said State Farm spent $3.5 billion for management costs and claims as a result of the quake. He added that 117,000 claims were processed and 300 are still disputed.
A representative from Century 21 also was present. Allstate and Farmers, who were invited, did not attend.
Commission officials said only the insurance companies truly know how many people may be eligible to use the law. But volunteer Carl Schiff estimated the number at 100,000. He said fewer than 10,000 people have taken advantage of the law since Jan. 1.
Homeowner Sandra Dolbec of Pasadena praised the law's effectiveness. With the help of the group, she was able to make a claim resulting in $100,000, she said.
"This is closing in," she said about the deadline. "People need to know about this."