California Wildfires Attorney
California Wildfires Attorney

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.

Wrongful Death Law Firm

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 h

ard 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.


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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