Flames of Negligence: Holding Responsible Parties Liable for Wildfire-Related Injuries

by Staff Blogger | October 23rd, 2023

A seemingly joyful gender reveal party turned into a catastrophic wildfire on September 5, 2020, wreaking havoc in southern California. Angela Renee Jimenez and Refugio Manuel Jimenez Jr., the couple at the center of this devastating incident, are facing severe legal repercussions, including involuntary manslaughter.

In this case, a smoke bomb ignited as part of an innocent gender reveal celebration, sparking a wildfire that devastated parts of El Dorado County. One firefighter died while fighting the blaze, and many others were injured. The fire consumed 22,000 acres of precious Californian landscape for over two months, destroying homes and properties.

In this article, we’ll explore the implications of fires that are started due to negligence, shedding light on the potential consequences for those involved. If you’ve been affected by a wildfire, we’ll also examine how the right injury lawyer could help you hold responsible parties accountable. If you need an injury lawyer, contact Berg Injury Lawyers for an evaluation of their case.

What Causes California Wildfires?

In the past two decades, California’s wildfire seasons have intensified, become more destructive, and have lasted longer between the end of summer and early autumn. Seven thousand four hundred and seventy-seven wildfires were recorded in 2022, covering over 331,360 acres. More than eight hundred structures were affected, and nine people lost their lives.

Fires can occur naturally or as a result of human activity. For a fire to start, three elements must be present:

  • Fuel: any loosely flammable material, such as dead or living trees, dry vegetation, or other organic materials
  • Oxygen: abundant in the air
  • Heat sources: ignition could come from downed power lines to campfires or cigarettes

Many factors contribute to natural wildfires in California, including rising temperatures, drought conditions, and dry vegetation. Climate change is further prolonging and exacerbating the fire season in the state.

Wildfire Injury Lawsuits After a California Wildfire

In addition to burns and even death, wildfires can cause smoke-related health problems. Smoke exposure causes eye and respiratory tract irritation and poses a severe health risk to children, pregnant women, and older individuals. These risks can lead to reduced lung function, bronchitis, asthma exacerbations, and heart failure.

In the wake of such devastating events, wildfire lawsuits are gaining attention as survivors seek compensation and justice. Many of these lawsuits include allegations of negligence and mismanagement by utility companies and the government in preventing and controlling wildfires.

As wildfire risks escalate, enhanced regulation and transparency are necessary. Citizens should also know that any property damage, medical expenses, lost wages, or pain and suffering experienced due to the fire can be recovered in an insurance claim.

However, to successfully file an insurance claim, you must be able to prove that negligence led to the wildfire. You must show that:

  • Those who caused the fire owed you a duty of care.
  • A breach of this duty of care led to the fire being started.
  • This breach of duty led to the fire, which caused you injuries and damages.

How to Determine Liability

When determining wildfire liability, a comprehensive investigation must be conducted to determine how the fire began. Parties that could have prevented the fire, such as by following proper wildfire prevention measures, may be liable for the fire and the resulting losses. This is especially true if they could have taken reasonable steps but chose not to.

Everyone has an ethical duty to avoid actions that could lead to wildfires. California law imposes additional legal obligations on certain citizens. Under California Government Code Section 51182, every Very High Fire Hazard Zone structure must have at least 100 feet of defensible space around it. Vegetation on these properties must be cleared of flammable materials.

Sometimes, more than one factor can cause a wildfire. In these situations, there may be a shared liability between multiple parties. Any of the following entities could share some liability for a wildfire:

  • Power providers
  • Energy providers
  • Arsonists
  • Private residence or property owner
  • Product manufacturer

Getting Legal Advice on Wildfire Liability

Consult with an attorney to increase your chances of receiving compensation. An injury lawyer in Modesto can provide insight and assistance in identifying potential compensation sources for those affected by wildfires, including:

  • Responsible parties: Individuals or companies who caused the wildfire may be accountable for injuries, damages, and losses if they were negligent.
  • Homeowners’ insurance: In the aftermath of a wildfire, homeowners’ insurance is one of the primary sources of compensation. A comprehensive insurance policy covering fire damage may allow you to file a claim for repairs or replacements.
  • Government entities: You may be able to sue government agencies if the wildfire was caused by inadequate maintenance of public lands, faulty equipment, or delayed response to the fire accident.

Compensation You Can Seek in a California Wildfire Claim

If one or more parties above were at fault, they may have a financial responsibility to compensate your economic and noneconomic losses, as outlined above. However, you may qualify for compensation from additional losses as well, such as:

  • Home or business structural damage
  • Landscape damage
  • Farm damage
  • Vehicle damage
  • Living expenses and evacuation costs
  • Pet or livestock injuries
  • Wrongful death

Call an Injury Lawyer in Modesto to Help You Rebuild After a Wildfire

Wildfire victims face many challenges, and we at Berg Injury Lawyers are dedicated to fighting for their rights and obtaining compensation. Thanks to our extensive experience in handling wildfire liability cases, we will identify potential sources of compensation, provide you with a strong case, and navigate the legal landscape on your behalf.

Get a free, confidential consultation with us today.