California Continues to Struggle With Wildfires

marcus-kauffman-408760-copy-300x232California has had a tough year, experiencing a record number of wildfires, some of which began due to natural causes and others that began based on an individual or business’s negligence. In October 2017, there were approximately 250 individual wildfires that began across the northern portion of the state. These burned more than 245,000 acres, destroyed more than 8,900 structures, killed 44 individuals, and hurt hundreds of people. Now, in December, the southern portion of the state is facing significant fires.  

If your home has been damaged or destroyed by a wildfire, you need to be clear on your responsibilities. Going through the insurance claim process can be difficult, particularly if you fight for your maximum possible recovery. However, there is help. You may benefit from working with a public insurance adjuster or contacting an experienced attorney like those from Brod Law Firm.

Current California Fires

As of December 13, the current fires raging in California include:

  • Thomas Fire: 237,500 acres, 25% contained, 921 structures destroyed, 200 structures damaged, 18,000 structures threatened
  • Creeks Fire: 15,619 acres, 98% contained, 123 structures destroyed, 81 structures damaged, 2,500 structures threatened, three injuries
  • Skirball Fire: 422 acres, 85% containment, six structures destroyed, 12 structures damaged
  • Lilac Fire: 4,100 acres, 95% containment, 157 structures destroyed, 64 structures damaged

Homeowners’ Responsibilities

It can be difficult to remember and manage your many responsibilities when you are dealing with the devastating effects of a fire. However, failing to uphold your duties could lead to more difficult times. You need to:

  • Pay your mortgage: Even if your home has been entirely destroyed, you cannot fall behind on payments. Otherwise, the bank may foreclose on the property.
  • Pay your property taxes: You can expect to receive your property tax bill like normal. However, if your property’s value has decreased due to the fire, be sure to work with your county to ensure your liability is adjusted appropriately.
  • Ensure your property is cleaned up: You are not personally responsible for cleaning up all of your property. Clearing property after a wildfire takes special equipment and precautions. Agencies like the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC), the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the California Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery (CalRecycle), and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) coordinate hazardous waste, debris, and ash removal. However, you can choose to hire a private company to handle all or some of these processes, and you can return to your property to sift through the debris and look for any items that may have survived.

Homeowners’ Rights

As a homeowner who has a damaged or destroyed house, you need to be aware of your rights under your insurance policy and state and federal law. You do not have to accept the first settlement offer the insurance company provides. While you are likely going to want and need a check from insurance right away for temporary living expenses, clothing, and personal items, you need to put more thought into the final settlement amount for the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home. No matter how sympathetic an insurance adjuster is, his or her job is to protect the insurance company. An adjuster will want to settle for as little as possible. It is up to you to work with a public adjuster or an experienced insurance attorney to protect your rights and negotiate a higher settlement amount.  

Contact Brod Law Firm Today

If you need help with the insurance claim process or you believe the insurer is treating you unfairly, contact Attorney Greg Brod today. He has extensive experience handling insurance matters and negotiating the highest possible settlements for his clients. He will review your situation and advise you on your best next steps.

(image courtesy of Marcus Kauffman)