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Insurers Ordered to Provide $5 Million in Quake Settlement;
Claims: Money to be paid by three companies will go toward earthquake education and repair.;


State Insurance Commissioner Chuck Quackenbush has ordered three insurance companies to contribute $5 million toward earthquake education and repair as part of a settlement related to 1994 Northridge earthquake claims.
The settlement caps the insurance commission's three-year effort to mediate complaints by nearly 3,000 property owners who said insurance companies improperly handled their claims from the magnitude 6.7 quake. Insurance carriers had countered they paid out $12.5 billion in 630,000 claims, with the vast majority of customers satisfied.
State Farm and Allstate insurance companies were ordered to pay $2 million each. Farmers Insurance Group was ordered to pay $1 million, Quackenbush's office said. The money will go toward earthquake safety education in schools, neighborhood and personal earthquake preparedness, quake mitigation and repair and seismic study science.
Quackenbush aides could not say how the money would be divided among those areas.

The programs were also designed to help increase the responsiveness of insurance companies in future disasters, state officials said.

"This focus ensures that Northridge earthquake victims' needs are met and that everything is being done to reduce the number of victims of any future earthquake here in California," Quackenbush said in a statement.

The commission had taken earlier action that resulted in Farmers Home Insurance Co. paying $100,000 and Fireman's Fund giving $555,000 to the programs. 20th Century Insurance also contributed $6 million to a fund to help earthquake victims.

A consumer advocacy group said the settlement sent the right signal to insurance companies to be more responsive to customers. But it added that earthquake education programs should not come at the expense of needy homeowners.

"Education is a great cause," said Gail Hillebrand, senior attorney at the Consumers Union, which helped design the state-run mediation program. "But if I was a homeowner in Northridge, the thing that would be important to me is getting my individual claim settled."


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