BY: Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller | IN: Personal Injury
Fueled by dry conditions and strong winds, a massive wildfire that engulfed large areas of Maui has led to widespread destruction of homes, extensive property damage, and a significant impact on the local ecosystem in and around Lahaina. Tragically, the inferno caused the loss of many lives – and the wrongful death toll continues to climb.
According to media outlets like NBC News, at least 114 people are confirmed dead, and an estimated 1,000 may still be unaccounted for, making the Maui wildfire catastrophe
the deadliest in modern U.S. history. In the wake of the destruction, many are seeking answers to the question: how was so much damage done so quickly?
The exact cause of the wildfire is still under investigation, but weather was likely a significant contributing factor. The National Weather Service issued warnings about high winds from Hurricane Dora that could have increased the risk of a deadly blaze. Many survivors and their families are now looking closely at Hawaiian Electric Industries, Inc.
The Biden-Harris Administration has launched “a robust whole-of-government response effort to support immediate and long-term rescue and recovery efforts,” deploying dozens of government and military branches, including the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, the Department of Health and Human Services, the U.S. Forest Service, the Small Business Administration, and the Army, Navy, and Coast Guard.
Despite these many resources, the only immediately available monetary compensation is a one-time $700 per household payment to those displaced from their homes and in critical need of water, food, prescriptions, personal hygiene items, and fuel for transportation.
Hawaiian Electric and its three subsidiaries — Maui Electric Co., Ltd., Hawaiian Electric Co., Inc., and Hawaii Electric Light Co., Inc. — collectively provide electricity to nearly 100% of the state’s residents. A first wave of class actions and individual personal injury and property lawsuits allege that the utilities failed to shut off power despite the National Weather Service’s high wind warnings.
The plaintiffs accuse Hawaiian Electric of years of inaction and claim the utility should have instituted procedures and protocols to shut the power down before the hurricane-force winds neared Lahaina. The intense winds knocked down dozens of utility poles, some of which are believed to have energized when they hit the ground.
In 2017 and 2018, a series of wind-driven wildfires killed more than 100 people and destroyed over 25,000 homes and businesses. One blaze, the Camp Fire, killed 85 people and burned much of the town of Paradise, California, to the ground. Survivors claimed Pacific Gas & Electric’s antiquated power grid ignited the fires.
Lawsuits against the company resulted in a $13.5 billion settlement and the creation of the PG&E Fire Victim Trust, established to handle claims of the wildfire’s more than 80,000 victims. In a separate suit, former PG&E executives and directors agreed to pay $117 million over allegations they neglected their duty to maintain equipment and protect people against injury and death.
Lawsuits provide victims with the financial compensation they desperately need to put their lives back together. No amount of money can ever restore all that is lost, but survivors of the Maui fires will undoubtedly need more than $700 to rebuild their lives, homes, and businesses. If you would like to help, many organizations are accepting donations to aid survivors.
The compensation Maui wildfire survivors may be able to recover addresses various injuries and losses, such as:
If you or a family member, friend, or company have been affected by the Maui wildfire, the attorneys at Sommers Schwartz can help you recover from this devastating tragedy.
Working from offices in California and Michigan, our experienced team of litigators understands how the aftermath of such a tragedy can touch every aspect of your life. Like the many clients we have successfully represented in personal injury mass tort and class action matters, we will vigorously pursue your case as if you were our family, fighting for justice and obtaining compensation for your injuries and losses.
Contact experienced litigator Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller for a free, 100% confidential consultation. We charge no fees until we win your case.
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Lisa Esser-Weidenfeller focuses her practice on medical malpractice, automobile negligence, and general negligence litigation on behalf injured plaintiffs.