Negligent Use of Warning System During October and December Wildfires: Who is Responsible?

By: JML Law | January 4, 2018.
Negligent Use of Warning System During October and December Wildfires: Who is Responsible?

As Southern California is still battling the raging wildfires, which are over 90% contained as of January 5, Northern California officials have estimated the fatalities, damages, and losses caused by October’s blazes.

It’s been a devastating wildfire season for the entire California, where several dozens of lives have been lost, tens of thousands of homes have been destroyed, and hundreds of thousands of acres have been burned.

As Californian authorities and the media dig deeper into the causes and consequences of the blazes – with December’s Southern California wildfires becoming the largest recorded wildfire in the state’s history – it turns out that the warning system across counties in the state failed to live up to its expectations.

Counties in California failed to use warning systems properly

With all the modern technology available to mankind nowadays, warning systems and wildfire alerts have not been used effectively – and in some counties, not used at all – during the devastating California wildfires in October and December.

As tens of thousands of California residents still don’t have a roof over their heads – and insurance companies aren’t exactly eager to give out settlements to compensate for their losses and damages – California lawmakers are investigating warning failures during the most recent blazes.

As the Southern California wildfires are still not entirely contained by firefighters and still continue to wreak havoc across large swaths of territory, the state’s top emergency officials concluded that the failures of warning systems and inadequate emergency-warning efforts led to the catastrophic consequences.

Fact: at least 44 people have been killed in the October wildfires, and over 10,000 homes have been burned to the ground.

Who’s to blame for the negligent use of alert systems in California wildfires

While California lawmakers are investigating who deserves the pointed finger of blame, the state’s top emergency officials say privately owned phone and other communications systems crippled emergency-warning efforts during the Southern California wildfires.

Our personal injury attorney at JML Law explains that the state lacks authority to control the use of alert systems by privately owned companies during natural disasters such as wildfires.

According to a report published by the Los Angeles Times, only “a fraction” of those in the path of the wildfires actually received warnings during the October fires.

For many residents in Long Beach and elsewhere in California, evacuation orders in the form of robocalls and digital alerts were not sent out until hours after the fires started burning homes to the ground and leaving residents trapped in their burning houses.

The failure to properly use – or, use at all – alert systems to warn residents in the path of the fire about the incoming wildfires is a clear case of negligence, as many lives would have been saved and many homes would not have been destroyed if California officials and privately owned communications and phone companies cooperated together to send out evacuation and warning messages to all residents in the affected areas.

While California lawmakers discuss their options to introduce new safety protocols and make warning systems more efficient, it could take them months or years to come up with new strategies to prevent wildfires from taking such a significant number of lives and destroying so many homes.

Your legal options to get compensation for wildfire damages

However, changes to California’s safety protocols are not going to bring back all those who were killed in the Southern and Northern wildfires in the past three months, not to mention that obtaining insurance settlements for repair and replacement as a result of wildfires presents California residents with a plethora of challenges.

But could you hold California emergency officials or privately owned communications companies that are supposed to alert you of wildfires for their inadequate use of warning systems?

Even though many state departments, including the Department of Agriculture, Food, and the Marine, are protected by the exemption of liability for damages arising from the issue or omission of fire risk warnings, it is nonetheless possible to hold other responsible parties, such as privately owned firms, liable for their failure to use alert systems properly.

If you and your family have become the victims of a wildfire, don’t go straight to your insurance company before you evaluate the full value of your damages with the help of a skilled attorney.

Find out who can be held liable for your injuries, damages, and losses arising from the destructive power of wildfires in your particular case by calling our Long Beach offices at 818-610-8800 or send an email to get a free initial consultation.

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