The Wrath on Grapes

Responding to every disaster that comes our way is something for which we should all be proud.

By Adam Potter

Amidst the wildfires raging through California’s Sonoma County, I had the opportunity to chat with public and private fire investigator Jeffrey Berino, a pro with decades of experience who has graced our pages before. In those previous interviews and articles, Berino sounded the alarm about years of drought creating the perfect wildfire storm—”one plus one is going to add up to three,” he said—and his warnings finally came home to roast in what will surely prove to be another difficult disaster in 2017 for insurers.

Why? With dozens of fires each with their own ignition suspicions merging to cause what Berino verifies is miles of devastation and burned-out neighborhoods of the likes before he has never seen, determining the cause will prove to be a long, complex investigation and logistical nightmare for insurers and their experts to sort through. Claims related to loss of business and agriculture, not to mention subrogation efforts, will be hindered. The economic losses and impact will be felt by the region for many years to come, but beyond the billions in losses is another stark figure: Forty-two people have died in the conflagrations, ranging in ages from 14 to 100.

Our industry will continue to respond to every disaster that comes our way, big or small, which is something for which we should all be proud. No matter how many catastrophes we face, we must continue to find a way to keep an empathetic approach and personalize each loss because, for our policyholders, first responders, and claims professionals, it is personal. Not many get the chance to have a direct and positive impact on those suffering loss, but we stand shoulder to shoulder with those who do on a daily basis. As we celebrate this holiday season, that is something to be thankful for.

Adam Potter is the chief executive officer of CLM. He can be reached at adam.potter@theclm.org

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