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Insurance Claims From California’s Wildfire At $9 Billion

State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties.

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California, Insurance
California Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones talks about the costs of recent wildfires during a news conference in Sacramento, California. VOA

Insurance claims from last month’s California wildfires already are at $9 billion and expected to increase, the state’s insurance commissioner announced Wednesday.

About $7 billion in claims are from the Camp Fire that destroyed the Northern California city of Paradise and killed at least 86 people, making it the deadliest U.S. wildfire in at least a century. The rest is from the Woolsey and Hill fires in Southern California.

Collectively, the fires destroyed or damaged more than 20,000 structures, with the vast majority in and around Paradise. On Tuesday, state and federal authorities estimated it will cost at least $3 billion just to clear debris.

“As the claims get perfected, as individuals get access to their former homes and neighborhoods, as they dialogue with their insurance companies and share more information about the scope of their loss, we expect these numbers to rise,” Insurance Commissioner Dave Jones said of the $9 billion estimate.

California, Wildfire, Insurance
Jennifer Christensen sorts through items found in a safe at the remains of her home Dec. 5, 2018, in Paradise, California. VOA

Over 28,000 claims

There are more than 28,000 claims for residential personal property, nearly 2,000 from commercial property and 9,400 in auto and other claims for the fires.

That’s well above the number of claims filed following a series of fires that tore through Northern California’s wine country last year. Losses from those fires were initially pegged at $3.3 billion but eventually grew to $10 billion.

While the Camp Fire destroyed about double the number of structures as the 2017 fires, home values in Butte County are far lower than those in Sonoma County. That’s part of the reason total claims may seem low compared to the 2017 figures, Jones said. Median home values in Sonoma County are more than double those in Butte.

Jones advised home owners to be cautious of “fraudsters and scam artists” trying to take advantage of vulnerable communities.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance, rain
A controlled burn ignites pine trees on the “Rough Fire” — which closed camps east of Fresno at Hume Lake as it crossed Highway 180 — in the Sequoia National Forest in California, Aug. 21, 2015. VOA

He also said its time for California to start rethinking how and if it builds in fire-prone areas. Ken Pimlott, outgoing director of the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, told The Associated Press this week the state should consider banning construction in vulnerable areas.

Jones said local governments may not be fully considering the long-term impacts of building in areas at high risk of fire, floods and rising sea levels.

“That’s going to be a hard conversation. Everybody likes to build new, people obviously want to rebuild their communities,” he said. “We’re in a new era where these risks are so bad I think we’ve really got to take a look at how we’re making these decisions.”

Cause of fire remains unknown

Authorities are still determining what caused the fire.

Pacific Gas & Electric told regulators that a high-voltage power line malfunctioned at the time and spot that investigators believe the fire started on Nov. 8.

California, Fire prevention, wildfires, Insurance
Joe Balog, a workforce management director at Travelers, examines weather, social media and other data from recent natural disasters inside the company’s catastrophe response command center in Windsor, Connecticut. VOA

The San Francisco-based utility told the California Public Utilities Commission on Tuesday that several miles away workers found a fallen power pole and equipment with bullet holes.

86 deaths linked to fire

A number of fire victims have filed lawsuits alleging that PG&E’s equipment started the fire that destroyed the town of Paradise and killed at least 86 people.

The cleanup costs for last month’s fires will far surpass the record expense of $1.3 billion the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers spent on debris removal in Northern California in 2017.

California Office of Emergency Services Director Mark Ghilarducci said the state will manage cleanup contracts this time. Last year, hundreds of Northern California homeowners complained that contractors paid by the ton hauled away too much dirt and damaged unbroken driveways, sidewalks and pipes.

The state OES spent millions repairing that damage.

California, School
Trees reflect in a swimming pool outside Erica Hail’s Paradise, Calif., home, which burned during the Camp Fire. VOA

Lesson learned

Ghilarducci said the state OES will hire auditors and monitors to watch over debris removal in hopes of cutting down on the number of over-eager contractors.

“We learned a great number of things,” last year, Ghilarducci said.

Also Read: Insurance Company’s Response To Wildfire Claims Better Due to Technology

He said the U.S. Corps of Engineers was asked to lead the effort last year because state resources were stretched thin after responding to more than a dozen wildfires. This year, he said state officials can manage the cleanup and costs will be shared among state, federal and local authorities.

Cleanup is expected to begin in January and take about a year to complete. State and federal officials are currently removing hazardous household materials from the damaged properties. (VOA)

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Factors to Consider When Hiring a Defense Attorney in New York City

If you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender for you

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Hiring, Defense Attorney, New York
If you have a good income and you’re capable of hiring your own attorney, then you’re bound to be fine. Pixabay

It is important for you to know that your income plays a major role when you seek legal representation. If you have a good income and you’re capable of hiring your own attorney, then you’re bound to be fine. However, if you can’t afford to hire an attorney, the court will appoint a public defender for you. The constitution guarantees you the right to be represented by a defense lawyer.

Before you hire a lawyer to represent you, you need to discuss with that attorney about their billing structure, as the cost is one of the major factors to consider. When you explain your case to the lawyer, he/she can determine the amount of money that the case will cost you. The following are other factors you need to consider when hiring a New York City criminal lawyer.

The skill of the lawyer  

If the attorney you’re about to hire has much experience in cases such as yours, the attorney will charge you more for their legal services. In most cases, you’re advised to look for the most qualified attorney to present you in a case because you will increase your chances of winning the case.

Hiring, Defense Attorney, New York
It’s important for you to know that your income plays a major role when you seek legal representation. Pixabay
  • The Seriousness of the Case

    If you have committed a serious offense, you need to hire a competent attorney to represent you. Serious cases such as rape, murder, and drug trafficking are taken very seriously in court, and if you’re found guilty, the penalties are very harsh. You can get a life sentence or face the hangman’s noose very easily. A New York City criminal lawyer who is capable of making you get away with murder will demand a higher cost than compared to petty crimes such as trespassing.

    The complexity of legal issues in the case  

    When you have a case with complex issues that may require expert witnesses or private investigators, it will attract a higher cost to build a strong defense. For example, you want to raise the defense of legal sanity; you can hire a psychologist to prove that fact. Such experts require an average retainer of up to $300/hr, depending on the circumstances of your case.

    Whether the attorney charges by the hour or a flat fee  

    Attorney charges are different. There is a defense lawyer who normally charges a flat rate, and you may find another who prefers to charge by the hour. You should consider your case, and if you find that your case will go to trial or take a long period of time before a verdict is determined, you should seek the services of an attorney who charges a flat rate. However, if you find that your case will not take a long time before it’s determined, you should go for the attorney who charges by the hour.

    Also Read: Computer Can Now Reveal Your Fake Facial Expressions

    Conclusion

    You should always hire the most qualified defense attorney to take you through the court proceedings. The attorney has the experience and influence in a court of law because he/she understands the technicalities of the case before the court.