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How can I get a utility company to pay for damage done by their meter that caught on fire or caused a house fire?

This legal question related to civil litigation & trial law attorneys in Florida has been answered.

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Smart utility meter caught on fire.   Plenty of evidence but no one wants to challenge the utility company for any amount of liability.  Insurance paid policy limit but it is not enough to make the house whole again without our investing personal finances into it.  Help.

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Legal Solution

The response provided below is specific to civil litigation & trial law attorneys in the jurisdiction of Florida. If the response is inadequate, please submit a detailed inquiry.

Overview of Legal Issue Regarding Utility Company Liability

In Florida, when a utility meter causes damage to a property, the homeowner may seek compensation from the utility company for negligence or product liability. The process typically involves establishing that the meter was the proximate cause of the fire and that the utility company failed to ensure the safety and proper functioning of their equipment.

Relevant Florida Statutes

  • Florida Statute 366.04: Pertains to the powers and duties of the Public Service Commission regarding utility services.
  • Florida Statute 668.6076: Notification of breach of security providing personal information.
  • Florida Statute 95.11: Governing limitations of actions other than for recovery of real property.
  • Florida Statute 774.301: Florida Impact Resistant Covering Code.

For comprehensive state statutes, visit the Florida Legislature's official website.

Possible Solutions to the Problem

To address the shortfall between the insurance payout and the actual cost of damages, one may consider:

  1. Filing a Claim Against the Utility Company: Initiate a claim directly with the utility company, detailing the incident, damages, and requesting compensation.

  2. Legal Action for Product Liability or Negligence: If the utility company refuses to pay or offers an insufficient amount, legal action may be necessary. It is advisable to consult with personal injury lawyers who have experience in utility-related cases.

  3. Negotiation or Mediation: Before proceeding to court, one might engage in negotiation or use arbitration and mediation attorneys to reach a settlement.

  4. Public Service Commission Complaint: Filing a complaint with the Florida Public Service Commission, which regulates utilities, could also be a recourse.

Comparative Cost Analysis

Service Average Cost in Florida (USD) National Average Cost Difference (%)
Initial Legal Consultation 250 +10%
Filing a Legal Claim 1,200 +5%
Mediation Services 500 per session +15%
Expert Witness Testimony 2,000-5,000 +20%
Property Damage Assessment Report 750 +7%

In Florida, legal costs can vary significantly based on the complexity of the case and the expertise required. It's noteworthy that Florida’s legal market may command higher prices for specialized services, such as expert witness testimonies in utility-related cases, due to the technical nature of the evidence.

Complexity of Utility Company Liability Cases

These cases are intricate due to the technical analysis required to establish causation and the resourceful defense often presented by utility companies.

Case Study 1: Faulty Installation

A homeowner may claim that a smart meter was improperly installed. The resolution would involve technical assessments and potentially the testimony of an electrical engineering expert.

Case Study 2: Product Defect

If the meter itself was defective, the homeowner might pursue a product liability claim. This would necessitate analysis by a product design expert to establish the defect.

Case Study 3: Inadequate Maintenance

For meters that were not adequately maintained, the homeowner would need to prove the utility company’s negligence in servicing the equipment.

Essential Questions for the User

  1. Date of Installation: When was the meter installed? This information is crucial to determine if the claim falls within the applicable statute of limitations.

  2. Maintenance Records: Are there records of any maintenance performed on the meter? Maintenance logs can be critical in establishing the negligence of the utility company.

  3. Incident Documentation: Do you have a copy of the fire department's report and any other documentation related to the fire? These documents are essential for proving the cause of the fire.

Common Questions and Answers

Q1: How long do I have to file a claim against the utility company?

The statute of limitations for negligence in Florida is generally four years from the date of the incident. It’s important to act promptly to preserve your legal rights.

Q2: What if the utility company denies their meter caused the fire?

In such cases, it may be necessary to seek an independent investigation to establish causation. Hiring an attorney with experience in similar cases can be beneficial.

Q3: Can I sue the utility company for the full amount of damages to my property?

Yes, you can sue for the actual damages. However, success will depend on your ability to prove the utility company’s liability for the fire.

Q4: Should I accept a settlement offer from the utility company?

It is essential to have any settlement offer reviewed by an attorney to ensure it adequately compensates for your damages and potential future costs.

Q5: How can I find the right lawyer for my case?

To compare lawyers in your area, consider their experience with utility companies, track record, and client reviews.

Disclaimer

This content is for informational purposes only and does not establish an attorney-client relationship. It's always recommended to consult with a local attorney about your specific situation.

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