How to File a Personal Injury Claim After a Wildfire

by Staff Blogger | September 4th, 2023

From devouring vast stretches of pristine wilderness to ravaging homes and properties, wildfires are catastrophic events that leave behind devastation and heartache. Beyond the visible destruction, wildfires can leave victims with physical injuries, psychological trauma, and substantial financial losses.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, the U.S. experienced 68,988 wildfires in 2022, which destroyed over 7,500,000 acres of land. California saw 7,477 wildfires that year, with 331,360 acres burned, 9 civilian fatalities, and 876 structures damaged.

If you sustained personal injuries in a wildfire, you may have legal options for seeking compensation. Whether your injuries resulted from negligence or inadequate emergency response, you can work with a California wildfire liability lawyer to file a personal injury claim for a fair settlement.

Ensuring Personal Safety and Seeking Medical Attention

Whether you find yourself caught in the path of a wildfire or are evacuating from an affected area, you should always follow safety protocols and seek immediate medical attention. The following steps can help you get to safety, receive treatment, and document your injuries for potential legal actions.

  • Follow evacuation orders: Follow any evacuation directives from authorities. Your safety is critical, and moving to a designated safe location will help prevent further harm.
  • Create a clear exit path: Maintain awareness of multiple escape routes and create a clear path to safety. Be prepared to quickly move if conditions change or worsen.
  • Prioritize immediate care: If injured, seek immediate medical treatment, even if injuries seem minor. Smoke inhalation can cause life-threatening complications and may not be apparent immediately. Prompt attention safeguards your health and establishes a medical record of your injuries.
  • Follow prescribed treatment plans: Adhere to your doctor’s treatment plans and attend follow-up appointments. This can help document the extent of your injuries and prove their lasting impact on your life.

Documenting Damages and Losses from the Wildfire

The process of recovering and seeking compensation for damages and losses can be complex. By capturing detailed photographs of the wildfire’s damage, injuries, and aftermath, you can provide evidence to support your claim and increase the chances of receiving restitution.

  • Capturing photographs of damage: Focus on capturing clear and comprehensive pictures highlighting the destruction’s extent. Photograph property damage, landscapes, personal belongings, utility damage, and date and time evidence.
  • Documenting injuries: Injuries sustained during a wildfire are crucial evidence for your personal injury claim. In addition to photographs, keep records of medical documentation such as bills, medical reports, and medical records that detail the extent of your injuries.
  • Capturing the aftermath of the wildfire: The aftermath can be a powerful testament to the extent of the disaster and its impact on the community. Check for environmental damage such as burn scars on the landscape, soil erosion, loss of wildlife habitats, and pollution. Document these events with videos and photographs.

Gathering Evidence to Support the Claim

When filing a personal injury claim after a wildfire, the strength of your case relies heavily on the evidence you present to support your allegations. Solid evidence can establish liability, demonstrate the extent of damages, and increase the likelihood of a successful claim.

  • Eyewitness testimonies: Eyewitness accounts can corroborate your version of events and add credibility to your claim. Seek statements from individuals who witnessed the wildfire’s ignition, spread, or contributing factors. Eyewitnesses may include neighbors, passersby, emergency responders, or others present during the incident. Record their statements promptly, as memories can fade with time.
  • Expert opinion: Expert testimony can provide authoritative insights into the cause and effects of the wildfire. Professionals, such as fire investigators, environmental experts, or meteorologists, can analyze the wildfire’s circumstances and offer objective opinions on its origin, potential negligence, or other relevant factors. Expert opinions can strengthen your claim’s validity.
  • Documentation of the cause of the wildfire: Gather official reports, news articles, or any relevant documentation that sheds light on the origin and spread of the wildfire. This documentation may include statements from fire departments, forestry agencies, or other authorities responsible for investigating wildfires.

Notifying Authorities and Filing Incident Reports

Notifying the appropriate authorities and filing incident reports is crucial in establishing an official record of the incident and ensuring the necessary actions are taken. Promptly reporting the wildfire to local fire departments and other relevant agencies like the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection documents the event and aids in investigating its cause and containment.

Notifying authorities and filing incident reports also creates an official record of the wildfire event. This documentation serves as a comprehensive account of the incident, including its location, time of occurrence, and the extent of damages. An official record is vital when seeking compensation for personal injuries and property damages, as it establishes the wildfire occurrence and its impact.

Consulting with a Wildfire Liability Attorney

Consulting with a wildfire liability attorney is crucial to navigating the legal complexities and maximizing your chances of receiving fair compensation. An experienced attorney specializing in wildfire claims can offer invaluable insights and assistance in identifying potential sources of compensation.

  • Homeowners’ insurance: One of the primary sources of compensation for property damages resulting from a wildfire is homeowners’ insurance. If you have a comprehensive insurance policy covering fire damage, you may be eligible to claim repair or replace your damaged property and belongings.
  • Government entities: If the wildfire resulted from inadequate maintenance of public lands, faulty equipment, or delayed response to the fire, you may have a valid claim against government agencies.
  • Responsible parties: If the wildfire was caused by the negligence or wrongful actions of individuals or companies, they may be liable for the damages and losses. Examples of responsible parties may include landowners, utility companies, construction crews, or individuals whose actions directly or indirectly led to the ignition and spread of the wildfire.

Contact a Lawyer You Can Trust

When facing the devastating aftermath of a wildfire, seeking compensation for personal injuries and property damages requires skilled legal representation and guidance. Our environmental injury attorneys at Berg Injury Lawyers understand the challenges that wildfire victims face, and we are committed to fighting for your rights and securing the compensation you deserve.

Our experienced wildfire liability attorneys possess the knowledge and expertise needed to navigate the complexities of the legal process, identify potential sources of compensation, and build a solid case on your behalf. Contact us today to schedule a confidential, free consultation.