Skip to main content
Find a Lawyer
Please enter a legal issue and/or a location
Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Earthquake Insurance

A standard homeowners insurance policy does not cover earthquake damage. Many insurance companies stopped insuring earthquakes in the 1990s. Experts projected that damage from a major earthquake could bankrupt them.

The typical home insurance policy does not provide earthquake coverage for:

  • Personal property coverage
  • Dwelling coverage
  • Coverage for additional living expenses

If hit by a quake, would your insurance coverage protect you? When evaluating your homeowners insurance coverage, take steps to protect your interests.

This article discusses the basics of earthquake insurance, who needs coverage, and the insurance company's obligations to you.

What Does Earthquake Insurance Cover?

A typical earthquake insurance policy will cover three basic categories:

  • Home. Like a homeowners policy, earthquake insurance will cover damage to the structure of your home, such as cracks in the ceiling, walls, and foundation.
  • Personal property. An earthquake policy will also cover certain personal belongings, like electronics and furniture. The coverage is typically much lower than other types of insurance as most earthquake policies will only cover a relatively low set dollar amount. Policies usually exclude things like china and chandeliers.
  • Alternate living expenses. Standard earthquake insurance will also cover temporary housing expenses if you can't live in your home during repairs. But this coverage is also much less than other kinds of insurance, with set dollar limits such as $2,000, which can run out quickly.

But your insurance policy will not cover all damage caused by an earthquake. Typical exclusions from coverage include:

  • Separate structures. Most policies won't cover structures not attached to your house, like a garage, fence, or pool.
  • Water damage. For example, if an earthquake causes flooding or damage to a sewer line or water heater, you would need to use your flood insurance policy.
  • Car. Your car is not covered. You can recoup those losses if you have comprehensive auto insurance.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) provides resources on earthquake insurance. It also has information on managing risks and recovering after a disaster.

Who Needs to Buy Earthquake Insurance?

People who need earthquake insurance include those who live on or close to fault lines. It's also necessary for people who live farther out or in areas with lesser-known seismic activity. This includes the New Madrid fault in Missouri.

The percentage of people with earthquake insurance is low. Coverage rates are considerably lower than other types of insurance.

For one thing, insurance companies don't heavily market these policies. It's difficult to spread the risk among policyholders who aren't likely to need it. For example, people in New Hampshire don't think they'll need earthquake insurance. The high deductibles and premiums might deter those who need it.

How Much Does an Earthquake Insurance Policy Cost?

The cost of an earthquake insurance policy varies based on the risk of experiencing earthquake damage.

Factors Affecting Insurance Costs

An insurance company will look at many risk factors when determining premium rates. The cost of earthquake insurance accounts for the following factors:

  • Location. Where you live is a large factor in assessing your earthquake risk. For example, those living along fault lines in California will pay a lot more for earthquake insurance. Location also includes whether you live in a densely or sparsely populated area.
  • Your home. The insurance company will also look at the age and condition of your home. Older homes that are multi-story and constructed out of brick carry more risk than newer, single-story homes made from wood.
  • Retrofitting. If you have retrofitted your home to make it more earthquake-safe, this could reduce your insurance costs.

The cost of earthquake insurance makes coverage challenging to get in some areas. Earthquake insurance premiums are expensive.

Deductibles for Earthquake Insurance

The deductible for earthquake insurance is higher than in other insurance policies. It also gets calculated differently. The deductible is usually a percentage of the policy limit amount. In high-risk areas like California, deductibles are as high as 10% to 20%. For example, a policy with a $300,000 limit would have a deductible between $30,000 and $60,000.

Sometimes, earthquake damage does not exceed insurance deductibles. The policyholder would not get compensation to address natural disaster damage. An experienced insurance agent can explain your options. They can provide information on premiums for your situation and coverage limits.

Obligations of the Insurance Company

Many insurance companies don't actively market their earthquake insurance plans. It is optional for most homeowners.

Options in California

California companies offering homeowner's insurance must offer earthquake insurance. The California Earthquake Authority (CEA) seeks to make California residential earthquake insurance affordable.

State Insurance Laws

Insurance companies must follow their state's insurance laws when dealing with claims. Obligations include contract laws and the responsibility to act in good faith.

If your insurance company isn't meeting its obligations, you have options. You may be able to do any of the following:

  • File a breach-of-contract lawsuit
  • File a bad-faith lawsuit
  • Contact your state's insurance commissioner

An experienced insurance law attorney can explain your options.

Get Help With Your Earthquake Insurance Claim

If you're facing the devastating consequences of an earthquake, the last thing you need is to fight your insurance company. A local insurance attorney familiar with the insurance laws in your state can help.

Was this helpful?

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Meeting with a lawyer can help you understand your options and how to best protect your rights. Visit our attorney directory to find a lawyer near you who can help.

Or contact an attorney near you:

Next Steps

Contact a qualified attorney to assist with any issues related to insurance.

Begin typing to search, use arrow keys to navigate, use enter to select

Help Me Find a Do-It-Yourself Solution

Copied to clipboard

Find a Lawyer

More Options