Insurance commission on earthquake insurance: Know what you’re buying

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Okla. -- A warning to Oklahoma residents from the state's insurance commissioner: Make sure you know what you are getting before you buy earthquake insurance.

Bill Medlin, owner of Rooster's Cafe in Jones, doesn't buy earthquake insurance, even though his business shakes often.

"I might as well be throwing the money out the front door," he said, "because they're going to find a way out of paying me for the damage that it's caused."

Fault lines run underneath Jones, but Medlin has heard excuses from insurance companies in the past about why they won't pay for damage.

"Oh, that last tornado that came through Jones 20 years ago, that's probably what done it," he said with a grin.

As the number of earthquakes increase, so does the number of families seeking insurance.

Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John Doak is also warning insurers that they need to be upfront and honest with policy holders about any exclusions.

"If the big one happens, then for a premium that we pay to an insurance company, we're going to be made back whole," Doak said.

One statistic presents a red flag.

In 2014, Doak says about 100 earthquake claims were filed, but only eight of those were paid. He points to insurance policies that have fracking exclusions.

Some policies say the company will not cover a "man-made" earthquake. That includes fracking, mining, or drilling.

"One of the things we don't want to find out, at the end of the day, is there's an exclusion in there that says, 'oh by the way, it's oil and gas-related or fracking-related', and there's no proven science yet," Doak said.

The commissioner says to be aware of preexisting damage exclusions, and whether or not your adjuster has had specialized training.

"When a consumer calls and adds coverage, we want to make sure that if the insurance companies are not examining those homes or inspecting them, then how do they know if there's a preexisting condition, or damage?"

Doak says if insurers are denying claims, based on the unproven belief that earthquakes are man-made by energy companies, they can expect his department to make sure the law is enforced.

Anyone with concerns about their earthquake insurance can contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department Consumer Assistance at 1-800-522-0071.

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