Because we’ve represented thousands of wildfire survivors, we are familiar with the agonizing journey that starts when someone loses everything in a wildfire. One day things are normal, and the next, nothing is the same. Wildfire victims usually come to us in “survival mode.” Overwhelmed by feelings of loss and helplessness, those who have lost everything in a wildfire often feel that they simply cannot stand up for their rights and begin rebuilding their life. Here are some some quick tips to help move from victim to survivor.
Shift Your Mindset
It’s natural to feel like a victim after experiencing the loss wrought by a fire such as the Maui Wildfire. But you don’t have to remain a victim. Our clients tell us that they become empowered by shifting the way they view themselves. As a survivor of a wildfire, you can choose to take positive action towards your future. It won’t be easy, but you can rebuild your life.
Understand the Facts
It didn’t take long for investigators to uncover the irresponsible actions of Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO): HECO’s failure to heed red flag warnings and deactivate hazardous equipment on August 8th led directly to the fires that caused massive destruction on Maui.
How can a trusted utility company like HECO put residents at risk? HECO’s customer base is comprised of 95% Hawai’i residents. But did you know that HECO is not owned primarily by residents of Hawai’i? Like so many large utility companies, HECO is a for-profit, investor-owned utility that trades publicly on the New York Stock Exchange. In fact, HECO’s top shareholder is the Vanguard Group, a Pennsylvania-based institutional investment agency worth at least 8.1 trillion U.S. dollars (Statista, Apr 28, 2023). Outrage and confusion is a natural reaction. Our California clients described similar feelings when they realized that PG&E was to blame for multiple deadly and destructive wildfires that ravaged Northern California in recent years. In situations like this, knowledge is power. Knowing more about the company that neglected to protect you can empower you to take proactive action.
Document the Damage
The next thing you should do is crucial — document the damage caused by the fire. Take photographs and videos of your property, possessions, and any injuries you may have sustained. Start writing a list of all of your lost items, everything from your TV down to the number of forks in your kitchen. Although this is the last thing you may feel like doing, it is best to do it while it’s fresh in your mind. This evidence will be valuable when filing insurance claims. It will also be useful should you hire Maui Wildfire lawyers to pursue legal action to recover compensation for your loss. Additionally, keep records of any written communication with anybody, especially your insurance company, concerning your experience or loss in the Fires. Save receipts for purchases made after the fire.Check our blog for more helpful articles about this process.
Communicate with Your Insurance Company
Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to report your losses and initiate the claims process. Be diligent in providing them with all the necessary documentation they require, such as photographs, videos, and any receipts or estimates you have regarding the value of your damaged property. Over time, insurance agents can change and it’s helpful to keep a record of every conversation and correspondence with your insurance company to ensure transparency and accountability.
Seek Legal Advice and Support
Nothing will help you more than having an experienced wildfire attorney by your side. A good fire attorney can help you understand your rights and options, guide you through the complex legal process, and help you consider details like when is the best time to start rebuilding your home. Our wildfire lawyers have decades of experience fighting utility companies and would be happy to discuss your unique case. If you are a Maui Wildfire survivor and want to speak with an experienced Hawaiian wildfire attorney, please call the friendly staff at Mālama Law Group: (808) 215-7833.
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