If you thought issues over wildfire insurance in California were complex, spare a thought for our neighbors north of the border. Although more than three years have passed since the infamous Fort McMurray wildfires, nearly 200 residential claims related to the incident are still awaiting settlement.
A representative for Alberta’s Treasury Board and Finance department told CBC News in an email statement that it has been tracking insurance settlements related to the wildfire event, which occurred in May 2016, claiming that a “vast majority” of the claims have been resolved.
The representative said that all of the 14,441 automobile insurance claims have been settled. But of the 25,498 residential claims related to the wildfire, 190 remain unresolved.
According to Christine Burton, a local lawyer working on more than 40 for the unresolved cases, the wildfire event has been a thorn in the side for her clients in more ways than just damaging their homes.
“Insurance companies are fighting everything, every step of the way,” Burton told CBC News.
“There are so many biases in the system. It’s a mystery, they simply say ‘no.’”
The lawyer added that while for some residents, their claims were resolved within a matter of weeks, others are still left waiting to this day. She pointed out that this inconsistency has been a major pain point for many of her clients.
“You will have neighbors whose homes are right beside the other, who are treated totally different although they have suffered exactly the same damage,” she explained.
Burton also mentioned that these homeowners without their homes are renting somewhere else and continue to pay their mortgages – while their insurers deny them living allowances.
The provincial Treasury Board and Finance Department has issued a statement regarding the outstanding claims.
“We are of course sympathetic with those families that were affected by the wildfire, particularly those who are still dealing with the after-effects,” the agency said.
The agency has a superintendent of insurance, whose job is to regulate the conduct of insurance companies.
“The superintendent continues to work with consumers and insurance companies to address concerns in a fair and timely manner. The superintendent’s office is not currently aware of any misconduct by insurance companies in regard to this matter,” the statement continued.
Claimants who believe an insurer has committed any misconduct should file a complaint with the agency, the statement ultimately recommended.