“Negligence” is defined as “conduct that falls below the standards of behavior established by law to protect others against unreasonable risk of harm.”
A person has acted negligently if they have departed from the conduct expected of a reasonably prudent person acting under similar circumstances.
There is a history of several severe fires in the San Diego area. The Rice Fire ignited in Fallbrook, California, and the Witch Fire ignited in southern San Diego County near State Highway 78 and Santa Ysabel. Investigations have linked San Diego Gas & Electric Company’s (SDG&E) operations and practices to the cause of fires. California regulators authorized a $14 million settlement with SDG&E after state investigators asserted inadequately maintained power lines started the wildfires. The money was paid into the state’s general fund. And while the owners’ various insurance policies covered the houses lost, there are still damages for which are unaccounted. Due to their negligence, SDG&E has paid over $740M in settlements with homeowners and continues to settle lawsuits today.
SDG&E is facing severe criticism for its role in some of the largest and deadliest wildfires in California’s history and for deferring years of infrastructure maintenance and upgrades that could have prevented those fires by hardening the electrical grid against extreme weather conditions.
State investigators blamed the utility company for two of the three fires. Even though it says it’s not at fault, SDG&E has settled dozens of claims for millions of dollars. The company has acknowledged that it believes customers should get the bill for any expenses beyond that amount.
Hundreds of other lawsuits by homeowners, the city of San Diego, and others are still tied up in the courts, potentially costing SDG&E (and its customers) millions more.
Here’s a quick guide to the wildfire-related despairs facing the power company.
What Was SDG&E’s Role in the Fires?
The state’s Public Utilities Commission blamed SDG&E for two of the three major fires, saying it hadn’t adequately maintained power lines.
Power lines are treacherous. San Diego Gas & Electric, which operates and maintains more than 8,000 miles of above-ground power lines in its service area, must care for those lines. The company must follow 565 pages of state regulations, which govern everything from tree trimming to how close wires can be strung together.
Reports say that the Witch fire began when power lines near Santa Ysabel slapped into each other during the high winds of an autumn Santa Ana. To blame was SDG&E, as it didn’t maintain a proper separation between the wires as required by regulations.
Customers affected by these fires have faced serious financial setbacks. Restaurants and other food industry businesses that keep large amounts of refrigerated and frozen food in storage have lost all of it due to the fires. Owners of businesses with tight profit margins have had their establishments burned down. Residential customers already tight on funds have lost their homes.
Suppose you or your family has suffered damage to your property or business or have dealt with a serious injury due to the recent wildfires. In that case, you may have a claim against the responsible utility or company. Utility companies like SDG&E have a long history of causing wildfires due to inadequate management of power lines and the surrounding vegetation.
TorkLaw holds these utility companies accountable when they cause wildfires, and we do it well. Our law firm consists of professional attorneys representing individuals and businesses that have suffered losses from wildfires started by utility companies like SDG&E.
SDG&E has tried to claim that inadequate maintenance played no role in sparking wildfires. But the current state of the power grid has influenced the utility’s decisions to commit large-scale shutoffs in hopes of stopping fires, explaining why SDG&E and other companies across the US have been taken to court over unintended consequences of power shutoffs and for damages relating to natural disasters.
Companies like SDG&E have spent considerable effort to try and shield themselves from litigation over fire damage.
If you’ve been injured or suffered significant property damage in a fire, it’s essential to work with a qualified lawyer to help you find the cause of the fire. Discovering the exact cause of a fire is usually tricky. A good law firm with wildfire, product liability, and personal injury litigation experience will have knowledge and access to qualified fire investigation professionals.
If you’ve been injured or suffered significant property loss because of a fire, speaking with a qualified fire damage lawyer is your best action.
Patients in hospitals and nursing homes are particularly vulnerable to fires. These facilities are expected to provide still the care patients need even in the event of a large-scale fire.
Per the National Fire Protection Association Life Safety Code, medical facilities housing patients on life-support systems must have emergency generators installed. These facilities are also responsible for the maintenance of all systems associated with the generators, which must be handled by trained and qualified personnel to operate the equipment and effect repairs if needed. Hospitals are also required to have emergency plans in a fire.
Unfortunately, there is no national code requiring uniform levels of preparation for emergency energy load requirements. These rules vary from state to state, meaning that it is possible a hospital could technically have preparations in place and an electrical generator installed but may not be sufficiently prepared for an actual crisis.
Fires can result from errors committed by power companies, conditions outside of anyone’s control, or many different factors. Negligence, either by those who own and operate infrastructure and facilities or by regulatory bodies, can be crucial.
Contact the Right Law Firm Today
If a fire has damaged you, it is best to consult with an attorney as soon as possible. TorkLaw can help you determine whether or not you have a case and help you organize all of the information you need to hold those responsible for your injuries or losses accountable. Contact us today or call 888-845-9696.