A Guide to Suing for Wrongful Death in the Aftermath of the California Wildfires

Jan 11

A Guide to Suing for Wrongful Death in the Aftermath of the California Wildfires

California experienced immense devastation in the aftermath of the October 2017 wildfires. What’s even more shattering is the fact that over 40 people lost their lives in the natural disaster. Losing a lost one is a hard blow and no compensation will ever help you deal with the loss. Still, parties that have contributed to a wrongful death with their negligence deserve to be held accountable.

Suing for Wrongful Death after a Wildfire: An Overview

Negligence as a cause of the wildfire will have to be established for a wrongful death lawsuit to be initiated.

In November 2017, the first lawsuit was filed against PG&E following the devastation in Northern California. The families of a Mendocino County couple decided to sue the utility company for the death of the two individuals in the Redwood Valley wildfire in October.

The wrongful death claims come on top of lawsuits for gross negligence against PG&E and Edison. According to the allegations, a downed power line caused sparks and initiated the devastating October wildfires. The companies have also come under attack for poor maintenance of the electrical network like failing to maintain vegetation or ensure the functioning of electrical equipment.

These are precisely the reasons that enable a wrongful death lawsuit to be initiated. As a result, several California law firms have also announced that they plan to file at least a couple of wrongful death lawsuits against utility companies in the near future.

The Wrongful Death Lawsuit Process

If you have lost a loved one in a California wildfire, you can hold large utility companies accountable. You deserve the compensation that can help you cover medical and funeral costs, emotional pain and suffering, as well as lost wages and punitive damages.

A legally supportable and verifiable reason for the claim will be required. In the instance, the assistance of an experienced attorney will be sufficient to identify the accountable party and hold them responsible for the loss of life. An attorney will know what it takes to collect evidence and gather expert testimonials that could potentially be used to establish negligence.

Many of the cases settle out of court. Big companies do have large legal departments but they’re interested in addressing such lawsuits as quickly as possible (and preferably without a ton of media attention).

If the settlement being offered is a just one, the process will end there. Alternatively, things will be taken to a California court.

You should be prepared for a serious battle. A general rule of thumb is that wrongful death lawsuits are lengthy ordeals. Depending on the situation, the case could be resolved within a couple of months or it can take years. This is why the collection of evidence and the preparation of the wrongful death claim happen to be the two most important parts of the process, the ones that will typically be determining for the outcome.

Utility companies have to pay for their negligence that has allegedly caused the loss of lives. If you have lost someone in the California wildfires, do not hesitate to seek legal assistance. The Kalfayan Merjanian attorneys have both the experience and the passion to help you get the justice that you deserve.




Mr. Merjanian is the founder and managing partner of Kalfayan Merjanian LLP’s Newport Beach office. He has attained substantial recoveries on behalf of his clients. His primary practice areas include Antitrust, Business Litigation, Civil Litigation, and Personal Injury. Mr. Merjanian’s most recent publication is Ensuring Access to Affordable Medication: The Supreme Court’s Opinion in F.T.C. v. Actavis, Inc., published in the Fall 2013 issue of The Journal of the Antitrust and Unfair Competition Law Section of the State Bar of California. Some of his other publications include: Shipping Implied Warranty Liability: Vertical Privity and the Implied Warranty Bundled into Your Online Shopping Cart; Law Goes Green; and Reducing Greenhouse Gases from Electricity and Natural Gas Use in San Diego County Buildings: An Analysis of Local Government Policy Options. TEL: (949) 287-4931 / FAX: (888) 400-6263 / VIC@RKVMLAW.COM

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