The threat of wildfires in Northern California has grown in recent years due to the extended drought period. Dry conditions are prime for fast-spreading fires that consume everything in their path. Wildfires are difficult to control and extinguish, making them a very significant threat when they occur. The latest wildfires in Napa County and Sonoma killed 40 people (as of the most recent death count) and destroyed more than 5,700 structures.
Although the term “wildfire” makes them seem like acts of God, they often arise from human causes, such as illegal bonfires, fireworks, and electrical problems. In fact, the recent wildfires in California may have stemmed from faulty electrical wires from the major utility company PG&E. Speak to our California burn injury attorneys at Liljegren Law Group to find out if you have a claim against a person or entity after wildfire-related damages in Northern CA.
The wildfires consuming Northern California are still widely at large, with fires so far torching more than 221,700 acres of land. Firefighters are racing to contain the fires as the injury and death tolls continue to rise almost daily. Fire warnings have been in effect in East Bay Hills, Santa Clara County, North Bay, Sonoma County, and more for the last week. Fires that broke out along Highway 37, Oakmont, Redwood Valley, and several other places are now 100% contained thanks to hard work from local and state fire units.
As of October 16, 2017, firefighters have managed to contain 22 wildfires throughout NorCal. Wildfire suppression is difficult in the region’s current dry, windy conditions, and many remain uncontained and continue to spread. As firefighters gain ground on wildfires, the true devastation they leave behind becomes apparent. Once the flames subside, the community is left to pick up the pieces – if there are any left. The horrific destruction a single wildfire can leave behind is immense.
Wildfires can be spontaneous and unpredictable, leaving no time for families or businesses to prepare or evacuate. Strong winds can spread wildfires dozens of miles in small amounts of time, consuming dry vegetation and buildings in their wake. Sadly, lack of notice or failure to flee can result in serious burn injuries, smoke inhalation, death, property damage, and other harms. Damages don’t just stem from the flames themselves – wildfires have many far-reaching repercussions.
One often-overlooked consequence of wildfires is reduced air quality. The recent wildfires have made the air in the California Bay Area unhealthy, according to reports from the Bay Area Air Quality Management District. The North and East Bays are under a current smoke advisory, with counties suffering from unhealthy air quality that may last days or weeks. The air quality in Santa Rosa reached “Unhealthy” status, meaning that everyone may experience negative health effects, and sensitive groups like the sick or elderly may see serious effects.
Other regions of Northern California have a moderate air quality index, which means there may be moderate health concerns for those who are sensitive to air pollution. Air pollution and smog problems can cause respiratory problems, eye and nose irritation, and illness. You don’t have to have burn injuries or a lost home to qualify for a lawsuit against the party responsible for the fire. If you or a loved suffered serious illness or injury from air pollution related to wildfires, you may have compensable damages through the civil court system.
Wildfires in wine country are bound to have an effect on many prominent wineries and vineyards in the area. As of the latest reports, at least six wineries in Napa and Sonoma valleys have suffered impacts from wildfires, with five in Napa sustaining significant or total losses. About 22 total wildfires have covered more than 170,000 Californian acres, taking at least 5,700 structures with them. If you lost a home or business, or sustained significant damage, because of a wildfire, you have options.
First, look at your insurance policies. Since you live in an area that’s prone to wildfires, you may have coverage for fire-related damages. Standard homeowners’ policies will cover destruction from wildfires. This means your insurance company will likely pay to repair or completely rebuild a lost home. The same is true for most standard business building insurance policies. Renters’ insurance may cover lost belongings, and auto insurance may cover damages to your vehicle. A standard insurance claim will most likely work for coverage for wildfire damage.
In the event that you run into problems with an insurance claim, such as lack of adequate coverage or a claim denial, hire an attorney. You may be the victim of insurance bad faith, especially if the company is getting hit with hundreds of similar claims at the same time. You may simply need a lawyer to help you negotiate an appropriate settlement for your myriad losses. The team at Liljegren Law Group has experience going up against major insurance companies after catastrophic events such as wildfires, and can help you get the most from your settlement.
Another potential means of recovery is through a personal injury claim. You may have grounds to file a claim or join a class action against an individual or entity responsible for starting the fire. In light of a recent investigation into PG&E for possible connections to the Northern California wildfires, many are wondering if the utility company will owe them money for personal injuries and property damage.
If the investigation shows PG&E did contribute to the fires through some act of negligence (particularly for sparking wires with the electrical system), you may be eligible for damages. The same may be true for any wildfire incident involving someone else’s negligence, recklessness, broken law, or criminal act. The first step in discovering whether or not you have a PI claim is speaking to an attorney. A lawyer will have the latest information on wildfires in your area, and give you professional legal advice as to when and how to move forward with a lawsuit.
Recovering from a major fire can be costly and difficult, especially for those without adequate insurance. Working with Liljegren Law Group is an excellent way to quickly learn your rights and legal options after suffering personal injuries, the death of a loved one, or the destruction of your home in a California wildfire. In the wake of recent fire-related catastrophes in the region, partner with our firm for much-needed legal assistance. We’re here for you. Contact our team online or call (619) 460-0109 to talk with someone about wildfire damages today.