Can You Sue for Damages After a Forest Fire?

When disaster strikes, it might not necessarily be a natural occurrence. While some types of disasters, like earthquakes and tornadoes, are beyond anyone’s control, wildfires are another matter. Wildfires can be caused by many different things, but when it comes down to it, many wildfires are caused by human activity/negligence. In 2018, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection reported 95% of wildfires in California were caused by human activities. 

If the conditions are right, something as simple as a stray cigarette or a spark caused by a car’s tire rim coming in contact with the road can potentially start a fire that quickly grows out of control. In recent years, some of the most catastrophic California wildfires have been the result of poorly maintained equipment owned by utility companies like PG&E, SCE, and LADWP. Things like strong winds and dry conditions contribute to the spread of wildfires, but negligence is still the root cause of wildfires like the Camp Fire, Creek Fire, Woolsey Fire, and the Thomas Fire.

These wildfires have completely devastated many communities throughout the state of California by forcing thousands of people to evacuate their homes, destroying and damaging thousands of buildings, and taking many lives. The victims of these fires are left in the position of trying to figure out where to even begin rebuilding their lives after having lost their homes, their livelihoods, and, in some cases, their loved ones. 

While insurance policies may cover some wildfire losses, they often don’t cover the full extent of a victim’s damages and lawsuits need to be made to recover additional damages. But if you’re the victim of a wildfire, what types of damages can you be eligible to collect? 

Property Damage & Loss

If a home is destroyed by a wildfire, the loss of that home likely isn’t the only type of property to be lost. Other structures and features on the property, such as sheds, garages, fences, and driveways, are also likely to be destroyed at the same time. If the occupants of the house are forced to evacuate their home, they might not be able to save all of their personal belongings before they leave. Trees and other landscaping features will also likely need to be replaced when a home is rebuilt after a fire and those can be included as part of a person’s total wildfire damages. 

Evacuation & Temporary Housing Costs

Even if a person is able to evacuate their home in time before a fire hits, relocation often comes with monetary costs. Depending on the size of the fire, they may have to travel a considerable distance before they find a safe place to stay. And when people evacuate, they often spend time in places like hotels while they secure a more long-term solution. Given the amount of time it takes to rebuild a house after a fire, people often also need to rent apartments or houses to live in during that process. 

Business Losses & Lost Income

Wildfires can destroy businesses just as easily as they can destroy a home. When this happens, not only do business owners suddenly lose the business they worked so hard to build, their employees are unable to earn a living because their workplace has been lost. In the case of business owners, they would be eligible to collect damages like lost revenue and the loss of business equipment. If a person is unable to work because their place of work was lost in a fire, they may be able to make a claim for lost wages. 

Funeral Expenses

While many things can be replaced or rebuilt after a fire, nothing can replace the loss of a loved one. If a family member is killed during a wildfire, you may be able to collect for funeral and burial expenses, as well as medical bills incurred before death. You may also be able to claim other losses like loss of companionship and financial household support provided by the deceased.

Help After California Wildfires

Rebuilding your life after a wildfire isn’t easy and you can’t count on insurance companies to look out for your best interests. When you work with a wildfire lawyer, you’ll have someone on your side who can help you through this very difficult process and will fight for you to get all of the benefits you need. At a time like this, the last thing you need is to be worrying about having to take on insurance companies and big utility companies. Contact us today and let us help with your cse.