Strategies for Pursuing Compensation After Fire Injuries in California
The wildfire season of 2023 in California has been difficult for many residents, leading to widespread property damage, deaths, and injuries. This issue is not simply restricted to California, either. Wildfires are erupting across the nation, from coast to coast and across seas to the island state of Hawaii. Victims of these fires may be wondering how they can pursue compensation for their various damages, including medical expenses, missed wages, emotional distress, and much more. Fortunately, there are a number of potential strategies for those who wish to pursue compensation in California, and a personal injury attorney can assist with many of these options.
Suing Utility Companies for Wildfire Damages
One potential option for those who have experienced damages in wildfires is to sue a negligent utility company. In 2020, this strategy was successfully utilized by wildfire victims in California. These plaintiffs sued the utility company PG&E and received a settlement of $13.5 billion. Perhaps the most important aspect of this strategy is that plaintiffs are not even required to prove negligence.
In the legal world, this strategy is known as “inverse condemnation.” Although the details are somewhat complex, the basic premise is simple: Using this strategy, property owners can theoretically sue the government for fire-related damages. This strategy is reliant on the legal concept of eminent domain, which allows the government to use private property for public infrastructure projects. Since utility companies essentially do this on a large scale when providing electricity to the masses, they are required to compensate owners in certain situations.
Today, victims of the recent Hawaii wildfires are attempting to use this strategy to sue Hawaiian utility companies. The only issue is that it has never been tried in Hawaiian courts, and its success is far from guaranteed. That being said, the possibility of success still exists, and this is something that many victims may wish to attempt in the aftermath of wildfires. One thing to note is that plaintiffs can band together and file class-action lawsuits using the strategy of inverse condemnation. With up to $4 billion on the line in a possible settlement, some would argue that it is worth a try for Hawaiian wildfire victims.
Suing Property Owners or Business Owners
Another obvious choice is to sue a property owner or a business owner for injuries caused by fires. These are premise liability lawsuits, and victims may file these lawsuits if they become injured on someone else’s property. The only downside is that this strategy does not work if you were injured on your own property. There are many cases in which people are injured by fires on private property, however, so it is definitely something to consider.
For example, a restaurant patron may suffer an injury after a fire breaks out in the restaurant kitchen. Or they might suffer burns to their face or body due to flaming dishes that spark blazes. On August 8, 2023, it was reported that Six Flags had been sued by a California man after a roller coaster ride went wrong. The plaintiff was allegedly trapped on the Mr. Freeze ride while an electrical fire sent smoke and flames across the roller coaster.
According to the lawsuit, all 12 riders were trapped and locked in place by the onboard restraints in a dark tunnel. A fire then broke out, causing a range of injuries. Judging by the reports, it seems as though the most serious injuries were from smoke inhalation. But while this injury might not involve direct contact with fire, it still has the potential to kill. Smoke inhalation may also cause permanent lung damage.
A 9-1-1 call from the theme park was noted in the lawsuit. Riders begged 9-1-1 responders to arrive as quickly as possible, with the official transcript containing exclamations like “All we can do is pray,” “Jesus please,” and “Oh my God.”
Suing Landlords – It is also possible to sue landlords for fires that break out on rented property. Tenants have a number of rights in the State of California, and landlords have a legal responsibility to follow fire safety protocols. If a fire breaks out because of some kind of hazard that went unaddressed by landlords, tenants may sue for damages. Examples include faulty or non-existent smoke detectors, doors that fail to open during fires, and other hazards.
Filing Product Liability Claims – In addition, it is possible to sue product manufacturers for fires sparked by faulty products. For example, a defective water heater has the potential to cause a house explosion. One of the most recent controversies involves lithium-ion batteries, which show a worrying tendency to catch fire while charging. There have been numerous documented cases of charging e-bikes, electric vehicles, and e-scooters sparking fires that burn houses to the ground. Manufacturers can be sued in these cases.
Filing Insurance Claims – Finally, it is possible to file insurance claims to recover compensation. Most homeowners’ insurance covers fire-related damages. However, this type of insurance typically only covers property damage, and not physical injuries or deaths. CGL policies may cover injuries caused by wildfires, and life insurance may cover injuries caused by natural disasters. If your claim has been denied by your insurance company, consider booking a consultation with an attorney to appeal the decision.
Where Can I Find a Wildfire Attorney in California?
If you have been searching for an experienced wildfire attorney in California, look no further than Mary Alexander & Associates. Over the years, we have helped numerous injured victims, and we know just how serious fires can be for residents across the Golden State. Whether you have suffered injuries, disfigurements, property damages, or deaths in the family, we can help you assess your legal options. Compensation may be easier to achieve than you realize. The only way to find out for sure is to book a consultation and speak with us at your earliest convenience. Reach out today to begin the legal process.