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Navigating the complex landscape of California’s insurance regulations, particularly when dealing with non-admitted insurers, is a challenge many policyholders face. At the heart of the non-admitted insurer challenge lies a powerful but underutilized tool: The Unauthorized Insurers Process Act, codified at California Insurance Code Section 1610, et seq. Section 1616, is a key component of the Act and yet is often overlooked by policyholders faced with a coverage dispute involving a non-admitted insurer.  

Admitted versus non-admitted insurers in California

An “admitted” or “licensed” insurer is an insurance company that must file its rates with the Department of Insurance (“DOI”) and is required to participate in the California Insurance Guarantee Association (“CIGA”). In the event that an admitted insurer becomes insolvent, CIGA is supposed to step in and pay covered claims, subject to various statutory limitations. 

Conversely, a “non-admitted” or “surplus lines” insurer is allowed to conduct business in California but is not required to file its rates with the DOI and is not a member of CIGA. By not filing rates with the DOI, non-admitted insurers sometimes have more flexibility in the coverage offered and the prices charged.  The DOI maintains a List of Approved Surplus Lines Insurers (“LASLI”) that has met certain capitalization requirements, but the DOI also permits non-U.S. domiciled alien insurers to issue coverage in California that has not met those standards. Thus, the financial strength and stability of a non-admitted insurer can sometimes be significant issues.Continue Reading Empowering policyholders: Forcing non-admitted insurers to post a bond before answering a complaint