Have You Suffered Losses from the Bobcat Wildfire?
McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP fights for wildfire victims in Los Angeles and throughout California
Since September 6, 2020, the Bobcat wildfire has been raging throughout Angeles National Forest, Azusa, CA, burning more than 115,000 acres. McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP and Bridgford, Gleason & Artinian are jointly investigating the cause and origin of these fires. Together, we thousands of clients throughout Southern and Northern California who sustained losses from wildfires in 2017 and 2018, and are currently evaluating potential Bobcat fire claims. The possibly affected areas for purposes of claim evaluation include the following:
- Paradise Springs
- Upper Big Tujunga Canyon
- Angeles Crest Highway
- Angeles Forest Highway
- Pacifico Mountain
- Big Pines Highway
- Largo Vista Road
- Devil’s Punchbowl
- Highway 39
- Emma Road
- East Fork Areas, including Julius Klein Conservation Camp 19, Camp Williams, and the River Community
McNicholas & McNicholas was part of a legal team that helped secure a $13.5 billion settlement with Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) to compensate all the victims of wildfires caused by the utility company’s equipment in 2017. Contact us today if you have been harmed or sustained losses related to the Bobcat wildfire.
What damages can I recover if I’m a wildfire victim?
Types of Wildfire Victims
There are three general categories of wildfire victims McNicholas & McNicholas is currently reviewing:
- Homeowners who desire to restore the property
- Homeowners who have sold or desire to sell the property
- Business owners
Inverse Condemnation and Negligence
The two theories in Wildfire cases are Inverse Condemnation and Negligence, which give rise to similar yet subtly different categories of damages. Inverse Condemnation merely requires the Plaintiff show the Utility-Defendant’s equipment was a cause of the fire. Negligence requires that the victim prove that the utility, or other defendant, was negligent (which means they failed to act as a reasonable defendant would act in similar situations).
Economic Damages Available Under Both an Inverse Condemnation and Negligence Theory
- Wildfire victims who still own and desire to restore their home at the time of suit are entitled to the cost to restore the home to its former condition, all costs associated with cleaning up the property, the reasonable costs to replace destroyed/damaged trees, the fair market value of their destroyed personal contents just prior to the time of destruction, lost income sufficiently tied to a physically affected property (e.g., a home office was destroyed and its destruction prevented the fire victim from continuing to work or run their business), and loss of use of the property affected/alternative living expenses.
- Wildfire victims who are homeowners and have sold or desire to sell their property are entitled to the diminution in value of the property (the value of the property just before the fire minus the value just after the fire), all costs incurred in restoring the property up until the point of sale (e.g., debris removal, septic tank repairs, etc., to make the lot desirable), the fair market value of their destroyed personal contents just prior to the time of destruction, lost income sufficiently tied to a physically affected property (e.g., a home office was destroyed and its destruction prevented the fire victim from continuing to work or run their business), and loss of use/alternative living expenses up until the point in time they sold the property affected by the wildfire.
- Business owners with physically affected properties are entitled to recover for the increase in expenses, loss of profits, costs incurred while mitigating damages, loss of business contents, and the costs to restore the property if the property was owned by the business.
Additional Categories of Economic Damages Available Under a Negligence Theory
Personal injury damages are recoverable in the event the individual can show the bad actor’s conduct was negligent. This includes past and future medical costs in addition to the pain and suffering of the Plaintiff from the injuries. There can also be emotional distress suffered as a result of the fire. This includes damages for being in the zone of danger and the “annoyance and discomfort” suffered as a result of having lost your home, cherished possessions, enjoyment of the community, and having been displaced.
Statutory damages may additionally be available. Statutory damages allow for recovery of your attorney’s fees from Defendant, the recovery of certain case costs from the Defendant, and the recovery of interest on the amount of money eventually received from the Defendant during the time period of the date of loss through the date of resolution.
Do I need to talk to my insurance company?
Yes. Contact your carrier immediately. Do NOT delay. Review your policy or, if you lost the policy in the fire, request your policy from your agent or your carrier. Examine how much there is for structure replacement, vegetation and landscaping replacement, and personal items. Also, the loss of use/alternative living expense coverage will have a cap (either “like for like” or a dollar amount), which means that you should make your best effort to find alternative living within those limits so you can be reimbursed by insurance and not suffer further out of pocket losses during what is understandably a difficult financial time. Getting your carrier out to the site as soon as they get out there, BEFORE you begin salvaging any items, so they can document the full magnitude of your losses. Finally, and related to talking to your insurance company, take lots of photos and videos yourself of the property losses in its entirety to document and prevent insurance fraud. When you do so, you take establishing shots (from 20-30 feet away), and then close-ups of what the establishing shots show.
What happens if I have no insurance, or not enough insurance?
Wildfire victims are rarely made whole by insurance alone. Whether you are not insured or underinsured, Wildfire litigation seeks to recover the out of pocket costs above and beyond what insurance has paid, if the victim even had insurance at all. If you do in fact have insurance, it is extremely likely that you will receive a notice letter from your insurance carrier informing you that they are seeking a subrogation claim against the bad actor. All this means is that, just like you, insurance will seek to recover from the bad actor in the amount of money they paid to you, the wildfire victim, under your policy as a result of the bad actor’s conduct. This does not affect your out of pocket recovery or the amount you adjuster deems recoverable under your policy. It means the insurance company gets back want they paid you and you get the damages beyond what the insurance company paid.
What specific things should I do right now?
- Review your insurance policy to inform yourself of your alternative living expenses “budget.”
- Contact your adjuster immediately to file your claim and have your insurance company document your full losses.
- Videotape and photograph your property damages in their entirety.
- Keep all estimates, receipts, and invoices related to the damage your real property has suffered.
- Keep all of your receipts of alternative living accommodations (hotels, AirBnB, rentals, etc.) along with any receipts for eating out while you are displaced with no kitchen (i.e. in a hotel). If your commute for work has become greater, keep track of the additional miles you are driving each week as well.
- Start your personal property contents list. This will be important for submission to your insurance carrier, as well as in any future litigation against the bad actor to recover the amount lost above and beyond insurance. The important details to track for each item of person property are: (1) what it was; (2) the quantity; (3) the rough brand or retail store it was purchased from; (4) approximately how many years ago it was purchased; and (5) the approximate purchase price. It is also important to keep a separate list of “cherished possessions,” such as family heirlooms, wedding photos, baby photos, jewelry handed down, and the like. To do this, you can take a mental walk through your house, going room by room, and remembering what you “see:” the dishes in the cupboards, the pictures on the wall, the furniture in the rooms, etc.
- Keep track of all correspondence with your insurance company such as payments, statements of loss, and claim summary forms.
How do I find a wildfire lawyer near me?
McNicholas & McNicholas, LLP is a respected trial law firm serving the greater Los Angeles area. Our wildfire attorneys have the experience, skills, and resources to help you seek justice. Please fill out the contact form above or call 310-474-1582 to schedule a phone consultation.