California Wildfires Attorney
California Wildfires Attorney

California Wildfires as the Cause of Mudslides: What You Need to Know

Approaching wildfire causes imminent danger to human lives, land and property.

California Mudslides & Wildfires

California Wildfires as the Cause of Mudslides: What You Need to Know

Approaching wildfire causes imminent danger to human lives, land and property. It isn’t the only hazard to be concerned about, however. Smoke damage is equally devastating. The barren land that fire leaves behind increases the risk of mudslides once the rainy season starts.

California Mudslides: The Aftermath of the 2017 Wildfires

The areas ravaged by wildfire have very little vegetation left. As a result, there’s nothing there to hold the soil in place once rainfall begins.

Landslides and mudslides are the direct consequence of the disturbed stability of the slope. Thus, both wildfires and human modifications can increase the risk of soil and mud going down, ruining property and causing infrastructural damage.

Following the Northern California wildfires in October 2017, mudslides killed at least 15 people. Regardless of the fact that the amount of rain was insignificant, the barren landscape contributed to yet another natural disaster.

Because they can happen without a warning, mudslides can be deadly. The fact that numerous communities have been left vulnerable after the October fires increases the scope of potentially devastation even further.

Pouring rain in December 2017 and January 2018 has made the situation even more troublesome throughout the state. According to experts, Southern California needs just 10 inches of rainfall during the winter for landslides and mudslides to be triggered. When areas have been previously burned, the amount of rain needed is even smaller.

Protecting Your Property from Mudslides

Homeowner insurance doesn’t typically provide coverage for the damage caused by mudslides. They are considered a form of earth movement, which is why both mudslides and earthquakes are not included in general policies.

Mudflow is caused by water, which is why it will be covered partially by flood insurance. A Difference in Conditions policy will provide a much more comprehensive coverage for both landslides and mudslides (and earthquakes on top of that). If you live in a high risk area, getting additional insurance coverage may be the reasonable thing to do.

Whenever a serious natural disaster strikes, however, dealing with insurance companies can be a challenging task. Processing time will increase. Some claims will be underpaid, others could be turned down altogether. Legal assistance in such situations will prove to be invaluable.

Landslide and mudslide claims fall under the natural disaster category. Attorneys that specialize in wildfire and other post-catastrophe claims can handle mudslide and landslide compensation requests, as well.

Apart from addressing the insurance company, it’s also very important to determine whether any of the damage and the property losses have been the result of negligence. After mudslides and landsides, many residential and commercial property owners have turned their attention to construction companies, contractors and other professionals that may have done a subpar job. While proving irregularities isn’t the easiest job, it can lead to additional compensation for the losses.

A good legal team can even go after utility companies like PG&E. There have been allegations of negligence and poor equipment maintenance that could have caused the October 2016 wildfires. As a result, the risk of landslides and mud slides has gone up.

Experienced attorneys like the Kalfayan Merjanian legal team know what it takes to hold responsible parties accountable and what it takes to deal with an insurance agency. If you are feeling lost and stuck, please do not hesitate to contact us.


Collect Evidence

The first thing to do after getting to disaster site is to assess the damage. For best results, bring a camera or a smartphone along. Pictures and videos of the immediate property condition can give you the evidence needed to demand fair insurance compensation after a wildfire. This is also the time when you should begin drafting an insurance claim journal that will feature all the vital data.

Contact the Insurance Company

It’s difficult to emphasize the importance of getting in touch with your insurance agent as soon as possible. The claims process starts once you establish that first contact. In the case of wildfire damage, insurance companies deal with thousands of claims, so calling them right away will speed your claim. When you call, an adjuster will be assigned to your case.

Remove Debris/Minimize Damage

Refrain from doing cleanup before the adjuster visits the site. The only exception is for debris or damaged structures that will pose a danger or contribute to additional property destruction. In such instances, you can perform minor cleanup. Always use a camera or video to document the original condition of the property before getting started with safety removals. The photos and videos should be available during the insurance adjuster’s visit.

Work with an Adjuster

Adjusters are responsible for documenting the loss and assessing the scope of the damage. You have to be present at the venue when the adjuster arrives to carry out an inspection. The losses will be documented thoroughly, establishing the settlement amount a homeowner will be offered. On occasions, the insurance company’s adjuster may come up with a number that’s too law. In such instances, homeowners should either consider hiring public adjusters who aren’t employed by insurance companies or getting in touch with an experienced attorney.

Assess the Scope of Work

The scope of work is a detailed plan that will give you an idea about the most important processes to complete for the purpose of restoring the property. If you don’t have the knowledge and the experience to assess the scope of work on your own, you should either visit the property site with a contractor or a public adjuster. The stages of restoration work will also be determined this way.

Find the Right Contractor

Restoring your property is all about hiring an experienced, knowledgeable team to handle all of the tasks. Finding the right contractor is going to be a challenge in the aftermath of a widespread natural disaster. Still, take your time, check references and ask for referrals before hiring anyone. Contractors who get in touch with you or rush you into a signing an agreement should make you suspicious.

Communicate with Insurer & Save Receipts

Communicate with the insurance company on a regular basis and enter all of the information in your claim journal. Keep receipts of the cleanup or hazard elimination work you have done for the purpose of communicating these costs with the insurer later on. If correspondence with the insurance company is taking place via email, save these digital logs. The level of documentation should be similar to getting ready for a lawsuit or an audit.

Get Professional Assistance

If you believe that the insurance company is postponing the provision of financial compensation or that you’re being offered an amount that’s too low, you should get in touch with an experienced attorney. A lawyer will represent your interests, negotiating with the insurance company and getting started with a lawsuit upon necessity. While some homeowners worry about the cost of legal assistance, the financial implications are going to be much more serious in the case of unfair compensation or a denied insurance claim.


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Do I have a wildfire personal injury or property loss claim?

Whenever a link can be established between someone’s negligence and the injuries or property loss you experienced, there can be a claim. Your California wildfire attorney’s goal would be to seek evidence and expert testimonies that will result in a better understanding of the wildfire that contributed to devastation in your region and to build a strong case for you.


Do electric companies have a history of causing wildfires in California?

In 1994, PG&E was found guilty of over 730 counts of negligence in connection to a wildfire in Nevada County. The fire that destroyed 12 homes resulted from omissions in PG&E’s tree cutting program. The total fine was approximately $30 million. In 2015, the utility company was fined for its contribution in the so-called Butte Fire that destroyed 549 homes and led to two casualties. While PG&E had to pay serious fines, over 1,000 lawsuits are still pending. A fine was also imposed for the 2010 San Bruno explosion.


Why do I need an attorney if I have insurance?

Often, problems with insurance claims arise in the aftermath of California wildfires. Many homeowners are not fully insured and are unaware of the extent of the compensation they might receive. In addition, insurance companies may award unfair amounts to cut their losses. Whenever an insurance company denies a claim or offers a settlement that seems unjust, it’s wise to seek assistance from experienced California wildfire attorneys.


How much can I recover in the aftermath of a wildfire?

There is no exact formula when it comes to calculating wildfire victims’ compensation. Each case is unique and California wildfire attorneys examine multiple factors. The extent of injuries and property damage, medical bills, lost wages, pain and suffering must all be considered. Estimates might be made by reviewing similar cases, but those award amount are a guideline for potential compensation, rather than representative figures of what to expect.


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