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Santa Barbara Mudslide Attorneys


Advocates for Mudslide Victims Being Denied Insurance Coverage

Santa Barbara, like the rest of Southern California, is no stranger to natural disasters. They are all too common in this area, and new ones seem to crop up every year. In 2017 we saw the Rye, Creek and Thomas Fires. Their intensity and rapid acceleration can be attributed to the longest drought in California’s history and the unusually strong Santa Ana winds that were blowing at the time. The Thomas Fire was particularly destructive, burning more than 440 square miles, making it the largest wildfire in modern California history. It destroyed at least 1,063 structures, damaged hundreds of others, and cost two lives - including that of a firefighter. More recently in late 2019, the Cave Fire burned a total of 3,126 acres. Thankfully, there were no fatalities, and the brave firefighters who got the blaze under control were not injured.

Unfortunately, even after being put out, fires bring dangerous aftereffects to an area. After devastating the Santa Barbara area, the Thomas Fire left a lot of dirt, dust, and ash exposed to the weather. Soon after, rains washed the dirt and ash down the mountains, destroying homes in catastrophic mudslides. More than 20 people were killed by mudslides in Montecito alone, and over 150 people were hospitalized. The Cave Fires threatened to create a similar situation, as a rainstorm hit just when the fire was becoming contained. Thankfully, the rains only caused minor flooding that service workers were able to drain away.

The Thomas Fire resulted in the destruction of over 100 residential homes, and damaged over 300 more. In addition, eight commercial properties were destroyed, and another 20 suffered serious damage. While the Cave Fires may have not caused the same level of destruction as mudslides, with more and more fires in California each year, the rise of mudslides is real. Unfortunately, insurance companies are quick to deny claims, telling those who were injured or lost their homes that their policies do not cover damage from events like floods, debris flows, and mudslides.

If you feel that your insurance company is acting in bad faith by denying you coverage, you need to speak to an experienced attorney. For over 30 years, our legal team at NordstrandBlack PC has been standing up for the rights of Santa Barbara citizens, seeing that they get the compensation they deserve. Call (805) 962-2022 for a free case evaluation.

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Can I File a Lawsuit Against a Utility Company?

Yes, you can file a lawsuit against a utility company if it acted in a negligent manner that caused damage to you and your property. Utility companies do not enjoy any special protections against civil lawsuits, though your suit must have merit to move forward in court. There were several civil claims filed against Southern California Edison regarding the Thomas Fire. Since evidence shows the devastation of the fire was a contributing cause of the ensuing mudslides, mudslide victims could also have grounds for a civil suit against Edison.

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Does Insurance Cover Mudslides?

We understand the shock and devastation that you, as a homeowner, must feel. First, your home is severely damaged or destroyed by a natural disaster. Then, you are told that your homeowner’s policy does not cover that particular event.

While most homeowners insurance policies don’t cover damage from floods, mudslides, debris flows, and similar events, the California Insurance Code requires insurers to adhere to the legal doctrine of "efficient proximate cause." Efficient proximate cause means that if a covered event, such as the Thomas Fire, was a contributing cause of the mudslides and debris flows, the insurer is legally bound to cover damage from the subsequent event. Experts tell us that trees and other foliage are vital in preventing landslides, mudslides, and other forms of soil erosion. Since the Thomas Fire destroyed so much foliage, it was a direct or contributing cause to the following mudslides.

California State Senator Hannah-Beth Jackson introduced Senate Bill 917 after the Thomas Fire, which was approved in 2018. It states that the Montecito mudslides were "directly attributable" to the Thomas Fire and that the resulting damage cannot be excluded from coverage. Furthermore, it stipulates that any damage caused by “a landslide, mudslide, mudflow, or debris flow” that was found to be a direct result of a different disaster that the insurance policy would normally cover, such as a fire, then the insurance company must cover damages to the extent that they would if the damage was from the fire alone.

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How Can I Maximize My Insurance Recovery?

Getting the most from an insurance claim comes down to properly filing the paperwork for the claim, understanding what is and is not covered, and being ready to deal with a low offer or denial of your claim. Having an experienced lawyer by your side can simplify the process and take some of the burden off your shoulders. An attorney will make sure you include everything you need and try to recover the full value of all your damaged and destroyed property.

If your claim is denied, or you are offered an insufficient amount, your attorney can help you negotiate a more appropriate amount of compensation or file a claim against your insurance company. Insurers are not allowed to act in bad faith by denying an insurance claim that they must cover, but sometimes, you have to file your case in court to force insurance companies to do what is right.

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How Do I Get Reimbursed for Damages and Emotional Distress?

The best way to receive relief for things like property damage, emotional distress, and relocation costs after a disaster is through a civil lawsuit. Insurance companies typically only cover actual property damage, but the expenses and emotional toll can go far beyond that. A civil lawsuit allows you to seek damages based on how the disaster has impacted your life and how it will continue to do so in the future. When the disaster can be directly connected to someone's negligence, then you have the ability to hold them liable.

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Do You Need Help Filing a Claim?

Regardless of what their commercials may claim, insurance companies do not always act in your best interest. Insurance companies and their shareholders want to make the most profit possible. To do this, they may attempt to get their customers to accept smaller payouts or deny legitimate claims on technicalities. Insurance companies employ armies of lawyers to fight against clients who challenge denied claims.

To get the compensation you deserve, you need a seasoned attorney to stand up to the insurance companies. NordstrandBlack PC has the experience, skill, and tenacity to hold insurance companies accountable to their clients. Call us today for a free consultation at (805) 962-2022.

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