If you or a loved one has just experienced one of life's most devastating events in the Maui wildfire, this article will provide resources and guidance on legal recourse.

The wildfires in Maui County that broke out on August 8, 2023, have been one of the deadliest natural disasters in Hawaii’s history. These deadly wildfires recorded a death toll of at least 115 fatalities, with 66 missing people.

The fires blazed over 2,500 acres within hours throughout the island of Maui due to drought and strong winds. The National Weather Service also reported 19 homes were burned by a wildfire in Kula. Many Maui residents had no warning or way out, causing a tragic loss of human life.

The economic impact of the Maui fires is staggering. Moody’s RMS®, a global catastrophe risk modeling and solutions company, estimated the damages to be at least $4 billion.

The fires have primarily affected West Maui, including Lahaina, Nāpili, Kā’anapali, and other areas. This fatal event has significantly impacted the state of Hawaii — the local Maui economy — as all non-essential travel has been halted through October 8, 2023.

Understanding Wildfire Causes and Responsibilities

Both natural and human activities can cause wildfires.

Lightning strikes, volcanic eruptions, high winds, and even spontaneous combustion can trigger the spread of fire. Of these, lightning strikes on dry ground are the most common.

Human-related events can also ignite wildfires. Common causes include open burning (think campfires, unattended fires, and burning debris), discarded cigarettes, equipment failure, and vehicle malfunctions.

Unfortunately, human-caused wildfires tend to be more destructive than natural causes because they burn faster and often ignite in areas with more combustible materials.

Determining Negligence or Malicious Intent

Determining whether the cause of wildfires is natural or human-related is crucial in deciding if negligence or malicious intent was involved. For instance, if a fire was started due to an unattended campfire or discarded cigarette, it could be deemed negligent behavior.

In more severe cases, fires may be intentionally set, constituting arson – a serious criminal offense.

Individuals, corporations, and even government agencies might be held liable. For example, equipment failure, such as a malfunctioning engine on a company vehicle, could make the company responsible for damages caused by a wildfire.

Resources Available for Victims

Recovering from a wildfire is a long, challenging journey. Resources and support are available for victims in impacted areas, which can help rebuild their lives — one step at a time.

Immediate Relief

In the wake of the Maui wildfires, shelters and evacuation centers become sanctuaries, providing a safe space for those who’ve been displaced.

Organizations like the American Red Cross and the Maui Emergency Management Agency provide urgent relief and recovery efforts. They provide clean water, safe shelter, and hot meals when needed.

Here are the emergency shelters on Maui:

Medical facilities treat burn victims and those suffering from smoke inhalation. Kaiser Permanente provides medical services to KP members and non-members at three locations in Lahaina. Pharmacy courier services are also available at all three sites. These locations are open 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., seven days a week:

There are also a number of community drives and charities that victims of the wildfires may wish to contact. Here’s a list of organizations driving local efforts and providing those affected with food, clothing, and essential items.

In times of distress, it’s also important to remember that mental health matters. Resources like the Disaster Distress Helpline connects individuals with crisis counselors.

Long-Term Support

Experiencing a wildfire can be incredibly traumatic. Losing homes, belongings, and even loved ones can leave lasting emotional scars. That’s why counseling services are so vital.

Organizations like the American Red Cross offer mental health services to help victims cope with their loss and trauma. These include individual counseling, support groups, and referrals to local mental health providers.

Additionally, after the fires have been extinguished and as the smoke clears, the process of rebuilding begins. Initiatives like the Fire Victim Trust provide financial support and assist with outstanding and unresolved claims.

Wildfires don’t just destroy homes. They can also devastate businesses, leaving many without a source of income. Specific organizations offer job assistance for those affected, like the Maui American Job Center, which provides resources for disaster survivors searching for employment.

Government Support

President Joe Biden has pledged $95 million to help Maui recover from the recent wildfires.

In his news release on September 8, Governor Josh Green thanked the entire West Maui community and reported “More than 7,500 survivors who were displaced are now relocated from shelters to 29 hotels and hundreds of Airbnbs through the efforts of the American Red Cross, Hawaiʻi Emergency Management Agency, and FEMA.”

The Red Cross is stepping in to provide survivors housing for at least 36 weeks. This partnership is crucial as the state of Hawaii, alongside multiple agencies, finds long-term housing solutions until 2025. It is for this reason that victims of the wildfire seek reputable wildfire representation to assist and plan beyond 2025.

The Governor has also approved $100 million in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Governor Green has also unveiled a plan to support businesses affected by Lāhainā wildfires. In collaboration with the House and Senate leadership, Maui County, and the Hawaiʻi Community Foundation, $25 million will be made available promptly. This financial assistance will come in bridge grants, ranging from $10,000 to $20,000.

These grants will support businesses, Lahaina residents, and other victims of the Lahaina fire until the economy regains stability.

Legal Recourse for Wildfire Victims and Why It’s Important

When the dust settles after a wildfire, victims are often left with more than just physical scars. The emotional and financial toll can be overwhelming. However, victims have legal options they must know about.

By understanding these options and seeking the right legal advice, Maui fire victims can start on the path towards recovery and justice.

The Role of Litigation in Holding Responsible Entities Accountable

Wildfires caused by human negligence or intentional actions can have serious legal consequences for those found responsible. Failed public utility infrastructure is an example where victims may be entitled to damages against the defendant–for instance,where power lines have sparked a fire or an electric company’s negligence leads to a wildfire.

In some cases, even government agencies can face legal action, especially if their actions or lack thereof contributed to a wildfire. However, filing a lawsuit against a government agency can be complex and requires a deep understanding of specific regulations and laws.

Potential Compensation for Wildfire Victims

Victims of wildfires may qualify for various types of compensation that covers everything from medical expenses for burn injuries, smoke inhalation, and hazardous materials, to property damage, and emotional distress. In some instances, settlements aimed at helping families, communities, and businesses recover from the devastation have totaled billions of dollars.

The Significance of Choosing Experienced Wildfire Litigation Attorneys

Choosing the right attorney is crucial in these situations. Navigating through the legal complexities of wildfire litigation requires expertise and experience. An attorney well-versed in this field can help resolve major issues, such as insurance benefits, and guide victims through submitting claims to trusts set up for fire victims.

Frantz Law Group: Your Trusted Wildfire Litigation Partner

If you or a loved one has just experienced one of life’s most devastating events in the Maui wildfire, Frantz Law Group is here.

With a history steeped in successfully handling wildfire litigations, our personal injury lawyers have walked alongside countless families, navigating the complex legal landscape. The firm has deep-rooted experience in California, and has handled wildfire litigation in states across the country.

Frantz Law Group’s track record speaks for itself. It has secured billions in settlements for wildfire victims, ensuring families can rebuild and recover. But more than that, we treat our clients like family. Our approach is personalized, compassionate, and dedicated — because we understand what you’re going through.

If you’re reading this and you’ve been affected by a wildfire, take the next step. Reach out to the Frantz Law Group for a free consultation.

Don’t navigate this journey alone. Let the Frantz Law Group guide you through wildfire claims and litigation.