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Can California Homeowners Sue for Wildfire Damage?

By Christopher Coble, Esq. | Last updated on

The fires that ravaging Northern California were barely snuffed out when Southern California was set ablaze last week. Wildfires in Los Angeles, Ventura, and San Diego Counties have burned over 150,000 acres, along with countless homes, and President Trump just approved a California disaster declaration and put the Department of Homeland Security and the Federal Emergency Management Agency in charge of disaster relief efforts in the state.

But what are homeowners left to do if their homes have been damaged by the wildfires? Here's a look.

When to Sue for Loss or Damages From Wildfire

Before filing a lawsuit over fire damage to your home, check your homeowner's insurance policy first. While most insurance policies say they will covers fire damage, that may only apply to accidental house fires, and wildfires are an entirely different animal. Especially if you live in certain areas of California or other regions prone to wildfires, insurance carriers may have different provisions for wildfire damage.

On top of that, wildfire destruction is generally far more extensive than your average house fire, claiming trees, vehicles, and other structures on your property. So even if your policy covers wildfire damage, it may not be enough to pay for everything you lost in a wildfire. So check your insurance policy first, and if it doesn't cover all or any of the damage from a wildfire, consider a lawsuit.

Recovering Damages After Wildfires

There may be multiple options for whom to file a lawsuit against, depending on the cause of the fire, the damage, and the response from the insurance company. If a fire is found to be started by human causes, either on purpose or through negligence, you may be able to sue the person or business responsible, seeking recovery for physical or emotional injury as well as for property damage.

And if an insurance company doesn't completely cover the damage incurred from a wildfire, you may be able to sue the insurance company. Before worrying about any lawsuits, though, make sure you and your loved ones are safe; then contact an experienced attorney to discuss your options.

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