Many residents in the town of Wells, Nev., suffered significant losses due to damage from the 6.0 earthquake that struck the small community on Wednesday. Unfortunately, most people may be forced to rebuild their homes and their lives on their on because they lacked proper insurance.
That same scenario would likely play out in the Beehive State if such a disaster occurred, because most Utah homeowners do not have earthquake insurance, according to the state Department of Insurance.
"If you took an overall average, you'd probably be somewhere around 15 to 20 percent," said Brad Tibbitts, director of the life and property casualty division of the Utah Department of Insurance.
He said in the wake of the Wells, Nev., quake, Utah property owners are seriously considering whether to purchase insurance or risk continuing without it. He said the main reason most people do without earthquake protection is because it is not required by law and it is costly.
"It is a little more pricey than your regular homeowner's policy," Tibbitts said. He added that insurance companies have difficulty developing premium prices due to the fact there are so few earthquakes, making it is hard to determine appropriate rates.
"There have been a few earthquakes and a few homes have had to be rebuilt in California, but in Utah there is just no damage," he said. "There is no modeling to go by to determine what the rates should be."
He added all but two insurance companies doing business in Utah offer earthquake protection, which is typically issued for an additional fee.
"For the average policy, the deductible is 10 percent of the damage that occurred," said Staci Delnoce, an agent with Richardson Insurance in Sandy. "For a $300,000 property, the total additional annual premium would be about $692, and the deductible would be $30,000 if your house was flattened."
Delnoce said the deductible would be less if the value of the damage was lower. She also noted that without specific coverage, the typical homeowner's policy would not cover any damage caused during a quake.
Tibbitts said some companies offer a 5 percent deductible as well, but that would result in an increased annual premium. He added the uncertainty of earthquake predictability has resulted in state governments offering little guidance to homeowners about whether insurance is truly necessary.
He noted that the state of California, for example, developed a state Earthquake Authority that writes policies for property owners through an independent insurance company.
"They underwrite this program for them, and they've only got a 14 percent participation rate in the state of California," Tibbitts noted. "People just don't take it seriously."
He added that people would regret that decision if they were ever in the situation of losing their home in an earthquake."People should sit down with their agent and figure out what their exposures are and their needs for coverage," he said.
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