Getting Legal Help After a Wildfire
It is easy—even normal—to feel overwhelmed after a wildfire. You may be hesitant to seek the compensation you deserve because you do not have the energy to deal with the challenge of negotiating with your insurance company or filing a claim against PG&E.
When we take on a case, we provide advice and manage all necessary tasks related to recovering fair compensation for your fire losses, including:
- Investigating the circumstances of the wildfire and the injuries that resulted from it
- Collecting evidence from a variety of sources to prove up your claims
- Consulting with both expert witnesses and eyewitnesses to gain a clearer picture of what happened, why it happened, and what effect it has had on you
- Advocating for our clients by seeking full and fair compensation for them from PG&E or any other liable parties
Going to Court
There are, unfortunately, some cases when a defendant will refuse to agree to an appropriate settlement, no matter how strong a case we built. When thatIf that happens, we don’t wee take the fight to the courtroom. We have found however that our willingness to try cases often helps cases resolve without a trial.
Keeping in Touch With You Throughout the Legal Process
We know that when most of our clients first meet us, they’ve never had to hire a lawyer before. Most have never imagined they’d be involved in a lawsuit. In addition to aggressively representing our clients, another part of our work is to help our clients understand and feel comfortable with the legal process by:
- Proactively contacting them whenever there is a development in their case
- Being available to answer questions they have along the way
- Being honest about the strengths and weaknesses of the case and about how best to resolve the case
After a financial hardship like a wildfire, obtaining legal representation should not be an added burden.
- Offer free case evaluations: Every California wildfire victim is welcome and encouraged to call us. We will assess your case at no obligation to you.
- Charge no attorney’s fees upfront: We get to work on your case without you having to pay us an hourly rate or an upfront fee.
- Only bill you if we win: Until you receive a settlement or a jury award, you do not have to pay us any attorney’s fees.
Compensation for Wildfire-Related Personal Injuries
Wildfires can cause financial, physical, and emotional damage. Typically, damages in every personal injury case are divided into two categories: economic and non-economic damages. Economic damages are damages that have a direct monetary value associated with them–such as medical bills. Non-economic seek to compensate a victim for the impact the fires have had on your life, such as pain and suffering caused by burns or the emotional harm caused by the loss of a home
Many people who have suffered losses in a fire do not know where to start. To pursue compensation for your Dixie Fire-related personal injury or property damage:
Start as Soon as Possible
To protect your rights:
- If you are injured, seek medical treatment right away
- Take photos or video of your wildfire-related damage (if and when it is safe for you to do so)
- Contact Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel for help calculating your losses and pursuing PG&E for its role in causing them.
List Your Injuries
Reiner, Slaughter & Frankel can help you identify the compensation you are entitled to recover.
These damages may include but are not limited to:
- Pain and suffering: Surviving a wildfire can lead to physical and psychological anguish, which, in turn, can affect all other aspects of your life.
- Temporary disability: Your injuries make it hard for you to move around or use certain parts of your body until you are fully recovered.
- Permanent disability: You will never regain the full range of physical or intellectual abilities that you had before the wildfire.
- Reduced quality of life: You can never enjoy the pain-free, independent life you once had; you may need help with everyday tasks or have to sacrifice fun activities.
- Scarring or disfigurement: Your injuries have healed as scar tissue, permanently changing your appearance and your ability to use the affected area.
- Medical expenses: You needed treatment for smoke inhalation, psychological trauma, burns, or any other injury caused by the wildfire. This medical care includes emergency and long-term treatments.
- Treatment-related travel expenses: For example, if the only doctor qualified to help you was far away from where you are staying, we could help you seek reimbursement for your travel costs.
- Property damage: Your car, house, business, or other property was damaged, looted, or destroyed in the wildfire.
- Loss of income: Your injuries prevent you from working until they are healed. Alternately, your place of business was damaged or destroyed, and it will be a while before you can reopen.
- Loss of earning capacity: You will never be able to earn as much as you once did because of severe and incapacitating injuries.
Determine Your Injuries’ Worth
It may seem impossible to assign a dollar amount to the suffering you have experienced. How do you quantify physical pain or the traumatic memories that the wildfire has left you with? Just remember that you do not have to handle this—or any other—task alone.
Present Proof of Your Injuries
Pacific Gas & Electric (or another party responsible for the wildfire) will not accept your word alone as sufficient proof that it caused your injuries.
PG&E may even try to diminish your payout by:
- Asserting that their client’s actions were not responsible for your injuries
- Blaming your injuries on your actions
- Offering you less than you are due and then refusing to negotiate
To present the strongest case possible, call Reiner Slaughter & Frankel. We know how to collect evidence that proves the liable party’s guilt and that the damages you claim are real, significant, and meaningful.
This evidence can take many forms, including:
- Receipts or bills
- Personal photos
- Personal videos, as well as footage from surveillance cameras or other sources
- Testimony from medical professionals and other experts we retain
- Testimony from your friends or family
- Your medical records
- Inspection reports
- Reports from the local police or other relevant authorities
Compensation for Wildfire-Related Wrongful Deaths
If your spouse (including a putative spouse), parent, or child (even if you didn’t formally adopt them) died because of the Quincy wildfire, you may file a wrongful death claim.
Wrongful Death Damages
If you pursue a wrongful death claim, you may recover:
- Personal injury damages: If your loved one never had the chance to recover damages like loss of income or pain and suffering, you may be able to pursue these damages on their behalf.
- Loss of society or companionship: Your loved one’s presence and support were an integral, irreplaceable part of your life.
- Loss of financial support: If you depended on your loved one’s income, we could seek reimbursement for the estimated income they would have earned over their lifetime.
- End-of-life expenses: These costs could include everything from funeral costs to the cost of settling your loved one’s debts.
Wildfires Are Often Preventable
In far too many cases—almost 85 percent of wildfires, as stated by the National Park Service (NPS)— are preventable and are caused by the negligent or reckless behavior of individuals or companies.
Preventable wildfires can be caused by:
- Poorly maintained equipment
- Misused equipment
- Improper dousing of a campfire
- Setting off unauthorized explosions or fires
The Dixie Fire was unfortunately a wildfire that did not have to happen. On behalf of our clients, we have filed lawsuits alleging that Pacific Gas & Electric caused the wildfire in Quincy, California. We have already begun to fight for Dixie Fire victims to ensure that PG&E pays them fair compensation for the damage it caused. This is a fight we have fought before.