Should You Consider Legal Action After A Wildfire?

April 22, 2019

Wildfires can cause devastation beyond emotional distress and physical injury. In light of the recent Camp Fires that ravaged Northern California, thousands of individuals are displaced by their homes and facing financial distress.

As we now know, the leading cause of the Camp Fire in Northern California was not caused by naturally-occurring elements, but rather downed power lines. This has raised implications that the utility company PG&E is legally responsible for the devastation. Negligent maintenance and management of power transmission lines can lead to downed lines, which in turn, can cause fires to spread.

Poor maintenance of electrical equipment has been a recurring issue among power utilities in the region, and in many cases is the reason for many wildfires. In fact, in 2018, California Fire investigators determined that one utility company in particular violated state laws that required power utilities to maintain adequate clearance levels between power lines and underlying vegetation. The investigators confirmed that downed power lines were the cause of several of the deadly 2017 fires in the Northern part of the state.

In cases in which a utility company acted negligently in maintaining power lines, you may be owed more than just insurance money.

How do I know what I am owed for wildfire damages?

As a wildfire victim, you have legal rights. An experienced attorney can help you in resolving three major issues.

Your insurance benefits

First, your attorney will determine how much your insurance carrier owes you for damage (or loss) to your home. Your attorney will walk through your policy language with you to ensure that you are receiving the full benefit the policy guarantees.

Damages for negligence

Second, your attorney may represent your interests in court should you be entitled to damages beyond your insurance benefit.

If a utility company is at fault for the damage to your home, you may be entitled to additional monetary remedies. A skilled attorney will determine whether you have a viable claim for negligence and what, if any, damages you are owed. This means that your attorney will have to prove that a third party breached or violated a duty owed to you (the duty to safely maintain power lines to prevent damage or destruction to property), quantify the damage to your property, and present an argument that you are entitled to more than your insurance benefit.

Representation In Bankruptcy Proceedings

In the case of the PG&E Camp Fire, an attorney can represent your interests through bankruptcy proceedings. In the aftermath of the Camp Fire, PG&E filed for bankruptcy, but that does not mean the company is immune to viable legal claims against it for damages caused by their negligence. An experienced wildfire attorney can protect your rights to recovery beyond insurance, even when a utility company files for bankruptcy.

If you’ve been financially impacted by the wildfires and have questions about your ability to recover damages, we can help. Contact Laureti & Associates, A.P.C. today for a free consultation.

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