California Wildfires Attorney
California Wildfires Attorney

Utility Companies Attempt to Blame Global Warming for California’s Extensive Wildfire Damages

The process of rebuilding the California regions affected by the deadly 2017 wildfires is still ongoing.

california wildfires power companies

Utility Companies Attempt to Blame Global Warming for California’s Extensive Wildfire Damages

The process of rebuilding the California regions affected by the deadly 2017 wildfires is still ongoing. Estimates for total insurance claims come in the range of $10 to 15 billion. In addition, state agencies spent approximately $1.8 billion on firefighting efforts, CBS News reported. The financial toll of the natural disaster is massive and because of this fact, investigators are still working hard to establish the initial cause of the natural disaster.

Utility companies like PG&E and Edison International have faced a serious backlash in connection to the October 2017 wildfires. Lawsuits have been launched, accusing the companies of negligence and improper infrastructural maintenance that contributed to the fires.

In California, property owners can collect damages from negligent utility companies. The utility companies, however, are attempting to shift the blame.

Blame It on Global Warming

Climate change has been cited several times as the reason behind the deadly 2017 California wildfires. Edison and PG&E’s chief executive officers have come out to say that global warming is the problem, rather than the companies’ infrastructural issues.

Bloomberg reports that Edison CEO Pedro Pizarro said both the frequency and the severity of California wildfires have increased because of climate change over the past few years. This is a part of an attempt by the two utility giants to fight the California law known as inverse condemnation. This law states that utility companies can be held liable for damages, even if safety rules or protocols have been followed. For this purpose, investigators must to prove that their equipment contributed to the wildfires.

Both PG&E and Edison representatives confirmed in early 2018 that they’re pushing for legislative changes to limit the scope of the inverse condemnation legislation.

The Investigation Is Ongoing

California officials have not yet come up with a concrete statement about the cause of the 2017 wildfires.

While the investigation is ongoing, the utility companies have come up with additional possibilities for addressing California’s wildfire problems ahead of the 2018 season. In March 2018, PG&E announced the launch of a comprehensive community wildfire safety program to work with first responders and community organizations to reduce potential wildfire threats.

At the same time, a new bill is advancing in California’s legislature. The aim of the bill is to shield utility companies that follow safety protocols from eventual property damage lawsuits in the event of a natural disaster. The new bill will not be retroactive and the utility giants will remain vulnerable to civil lawsuits from the 2017 wildfires.

As a result, even if the new law is enacted, if their negligence is establishes, PG&E as well as Edison could be held responsible for the 2017 wildfire damages.

According to preliminary estimates, the largest of the 2017 fires could cost PG&E more than $15 billion in claims. Evidence of their negligence in this natural disaster is mounting.

In January, new reports were released that found PG&E equipment was near the ignition points of the Sonoma and Napa wildfires. California officials stated that the exact cause of the fire remains inconclusive.

In February 2018, two smaller California wildfires were linked to PG&E equipment. The Santa Rosa Fire Department reported that the two fires beginning on October 8 and 9, 2017, were likely the result of sparks forming from arcs on electrical lines. In one of the cases, the electrical lines continued arcing even after firefighters’ arrival.

As of March and April 2018, the official cause of the largest and deadliest wildfires had not been officially announced, despite the mounting evidence. While Cal Fire is yet to issue a statement, Sonoma, Napa and Mendocino counties have filed a lawsuit against PG&E, claiming that the company’s power lines are the main cause of the October 2017 wildfires.

PG&E spokesperson Keith Stephens has refused to speculate on the wildfires’ causes nor has the company taken any responsibility for its possible role in the natural disaster. Cal Fire has not provided a deadline for the completion of its investigative work, but the timeline is likely to extend many more months.

THE WILDFIRE RECOVERY AND REBUILDING PROCESS

Collect Evidence

The first thing to do after getting to disaster site is to assess the damage. For best results, bring a camera or a smartphone along. Pictures and videos of the immediate property condition can give you the evidence needed to demand fair insurance compensation after a wildfire. This is also the time when you should begin drafting an insurance claim journal that will feature all the vital data.

Contact the Insurance Company

It’s difficult to emphasize the importance of getting in touch with your insurance agent as soon as possible. The claims process starts once you establish that first contact. In the case of wildfire damage, insurance companies deal with thousands of claims, so calling them right away will speed your claim. When you call, an adjuster will be assigned to your case.

Remove Debris/Minimize Damage

Refrain from doing cleanup before the adjuster visits the site. The only exception is for debris or damaged structures that will pose a danger or contribute to additional property destruction. In such instances, you can perform minor cleanup. Always use a camera or video to document the original condition of the property before getting started with safety removals. The photos and videos should be available during the insurance adjuster’s visit.

Work with an Adjuster

Adjusters are responsible for documenting the loss and assessing the scope of the damage. You have to be present at the venue when the adjuster arrives to carry out an inspection. The losses will be documented thoroughly, establishing the settlement amount a homeowner will be offered. On occasions, the insurance company’s adjuster may come up with a number that’s too law. In such instances, homeowners should either consider hiring public adjusters who aren’t employed by insurance companies or getting in touch with an experienced attorney.

Assess the Scope of Work

The scope of work is a detailed plan that will give you an idea about the most important processes to complete for the purpose of restoring the property. If you don’t have the knowledge and the experience to assess the scope of work on your own, you should either visit the property site with a contractor or a public adjuster. The stages of restoration work will also be determined this way.

Find the Right Contractor

Restoring your property is all about hiring an experienced, knowledgeable team to handle all of the tasks. Finding the right contractor is going to be a challenge in the aftermath of a widespread natural disaster. Still, take your time, check references and ask for referrals before hiring anyone. Contractors who get in touch with you or rush you into a signing an agreement should make you suspicious.

Communicate with Insurer & Save Receipts

Communicate with the insurance company on a regular basis and enter all of the information in your claim journal. Keep receipts of the cleanup or hazard elimination work you have done for the purpose of communicating these costs with the insurer later on. If correspondence with the insurance company is taking place via email, save these digital logs. The level of documentation should be similar to getting ready for a lawsuit or an audit.

Get Professional Assistance

If you believe that the insurance company is postponing the provision of financial compensation or that you’re being offered an amount that’s too low, you should get in touch with an experienced attorney. A lawyer will represent your interests, negotiating with the insurance company and getting started with a lawsuit upon necessity. While some homeowners worry about the cost of legal assistance, the financial implications are going to be much more serious in the case of unfair compensation or a denied insurance claim.

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YOUR MOST PRESSING QUESTIONS ANSWERED

YOU HAVE QUESTIONS, WE HAVE ANSWERS.

Do I have a wildfire personal injury or property loss claim?

Whenever a link can be established between someone’s negligence and the injuries or property loss you experienced, there can be a claim. Your California wildfire attorney’s goal would be to seek evidence and expert testimonies that will result in a better understanding of the wildfire that contributed to devastation in your region and to build a strong case for you.

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Do electric companies have a history of causing wildfires in California?

In 1994, PG&E was found guilty of over 730 counts of negligence in connection to a wildfire in Nevada County. The fire that destroyed 12 homes resulted from omissions in PG&E’s tree cutting program. The total fine was approximately $30 million. In 2015, the utility company was fined for its contribution in the so-called Butte Fire that destroyed 549 homes and led to two casualties. While PG&E had to pay serious fines, over 1,000 lawsuits are still pending. A fine was also imposed for the 2010 San Bruno explosion.

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Why do I need an attorney if I have insurance?

Often, problems with insurance claims arise in the aftermath of California wildfires. Many homeowners are not fully insured and are unaware of the extent of the compensation they might receive. In addition, insurance companies may award unfair amounts to cut their losses. Whenever an insurance company denies a claim or offers a settlement that seems unjust, it’s wise to seek assistance from experienced California wildfire attorneys.

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How much can I recover in the aftermath of a wildfire?

There is no exact formula when it comes to calculating wildfire victims’ compensation. Each case is unique and California wildfire attorneys examine multiple factors. The extent of injuries and property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering must all be considered. Estimates might be made by reviewing similar cases, but those award amount are a guideline for potential compensation, rather than representative figures of what to expect.

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