Quote of the Day - Young wood makes a hot fire.
As the evacuations are lifted this week and some 900,000 homeowners trickle back into their neighborhoods, what's next for the approximate 3,000 people who lost their homes and businesses to the wildfires? Largely it's trying to put lives back together after the devastation
There are many resources available: one law firm published the "Helping Handbook - For Individuals and Small Businesses Affected By The 2007 Southern California Wildfires." Over 40 government agencies are available at the evacuation centers open around the area. You can see the information on San Bernardino's efforts here and those in San Diego (much more extensive) here. Insurance companies stand at the ready.
After those government avenues are exhausted, however, the next stop is likely a lawyer's office. Why?
Most construction in the areas burned in San Diego is new, and subject to fire retardant guidelines. Developers who built homes without the appropriate safeguards in place, causing the house to burn down, will likely face lawsuits. As one example, homes are required to have 1/4" steel mesh blocking all attic vents to prevent burning embers from entering under the eaves and starting attic fires. Developers who forgot to install the mesh or meet other fire code requirements may face lawsuits. I was pleased to discover my home has them when I went to look because I'd never noticed before (thank you Lennar Homes). A tile roof is another obvious prevention effort; wood shake shingles shouldn't be on homes in fire-prone areas.
Not only are developers targets for lawsuits, but also insurance companies. After the 2003 wildfires, many of us took a good, hard look at our insurance policies and made sure we had replacement cost coverage and proper limits of coverage for contents and the dwelling itself. If you don't carry current limits, then it's likely your insurance company will pay only a proportion of your claim.
Say, for example, it will take $500,000 to rebuild your home, but you carried only $250,000 of coverage. In that instance, your insurance company will pay only half of your claim. Or, heaven forbid, you carried "actual cash value" on your home instead of replacement cost coverage, which is a somewhat fancy way of saying the insurance company will pay only the depreciated value of your home. Using the example above and adding insult to injury, your insurance carrier would likely pay you around $100,000, which would be the "depreciated" value of your home.
It's not surprising when confronted with these scenarios that people next think of contacting a lawyer.
Then there are the arsonists and California's victim restitution plan. We've experienced $1 billion in losses, so there's no hope for recovery there. When people sue, they look for deep pockets.