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Public Adjuster Misled California Wildfire Victims, Insurance Commissioner Says

Santiago Aguilar lives at the foot of some San Bernardino hills, where wildfires are common. His home has always been safe, even from smoke damage, he believed. But a public adjuster reached out to him suggesting otherwise. 

“I didn’t know there was smoke damage to my house,” said Aguilar. 

A company called California Recovery Group sent Aguilar a postcard saying it can help homeowners file claims for smoke damage caused by nearby wildfires. 

So Aguilar signed up. He says California Recovery Group did a quick assessment of his home and filed a claim with his insurance company. 

“All she did was touch the curtain. She touched the corner of the curtain,” he said.

Weeks later, Aguilar got a check from his insurance company for $7,000 to clean his house. But according to the paperwork he signed with California Recovery Group, he owed them half. He didn’t think that was fair. 

“I feel like all they did was call them and do what I could have done. All they did was call my insurance and tell them there was damage to the house,” he said. 

This week, Insurance Commissioner Ricardo Lara announced he’s shutting down California Recovery Group and has banned the owner of the company from working in the industry for eight years. 

Lara accused California Recovery Group of failing to get permission from homeowners before filing claims with their insurance company. He said the company also falsely told homeowners their insurance rates wouldn’t be impacted by filing a claim, although Aguilar doesn’t have these complaints with the company. 

California Recover Group didn’t return the I-Team’s phone calls for comment about the commissioner’s action. But when we earlier reached out about Aguilar’s complaint, the company waived its share of the $7,000.

Commissioner Lara points out that many insurance policies cover smoke damage, and you don’t need a public adjuster to help. He says his investigation is ongoing and believes there may be more victims. If you’re one of them, call 213-278-5000. 

Source: NBC Los Angeles

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