Wildfires are perhaps the single biggest threat to homeowners in California, causing over a billion dollars of damage annually since 1980. If your home and personal property are damaged in one of these destructive events, you can seek compensation by filing a claim with your homeowners’ insurance provider. However, you should also know that insurance companies are big businesses whose profits depend on denying any claim they can and minimizing the payouts in those they accept. As such, you’re going up against a major corporation that’s invested a lot of money into making sure you don’t get your fair share.
Instead of going up against them alone, even the playing field by hiring a California wildfire claim lawyer. They know how to navigate these complex claims and advocate for your rights, standing up to big insurance companies so you don’t have to. With a lawyer’s assistance, you stand a better chance of getting the financial support you need to repair or rebuild your home after a California wildfire.
How Common Is Wildfire Damage in California?
Wildfire risks in California have become an increasingly critical concern in recent years, posing significant threats to communities up and down the state. The following points provide a statistical overview of the wildfire damage risk in California, highlighting the extent and severity of this ongoing challenge:
- Wildfires in the Western United States, including California, tend to be larger and more destructive than in the East, where they are more common.
- In 2022, more than 20,000 wildfires burned around 5.8 million acres in the West, compared to the 48,000 fires in the East that burned just over 1.8 million acres.
- That same year, more than 2,700 structures burned in wildfires throughout the U.S., the majority in California.
- Over half of California’s wildlands, amounting to more than 25 million acres, are classified as areas with very high or extreme wildfire threats.
- California’s most destructive wildfire season on record was in 2018, with 7,571 fires burning nearly 1.7 million acres, resulting in over 23,300 damaged or destroyed structures.
- Since the 1980s, there has been a notable increase in both the size and intensity of wildfires in California. Fifteen of the 20 largest wildfires in the state’s history have occurred since 2000
- Ten of California’s most costly and destructive fires in terms of impact on life and property have occurred since 2015.
Common Types of Wildfire Damage
Wildfires in California can have a devastating impact on homes and other properties. Here are some typical forms of damage that California homeowners frequently include in their insurance claims after a wildfire:
- Structural Damage: Wildfires often cause direct damage to the structure of homes. This includes burnt roofs, walls, and foundational elements. The intense heat can also weaken the structural integrity of buildings, making them unfit for habitation.
- Smoke Damage: Smoke can permeate a home, leaving behind a persistent odor and residue. This type of damage affects walls, ceilings, and personal belongings and is difficult to clean.
- Water Damage: Firefighters using water to extinguish fires can cause significant water damage in homes. This includes damage to floors, walls, and furniture.
- Loss of Personal Property: Wildfires frequently result in the loss of personal property such as furniture, electronics, clothing, and other personal items to fire, smoke, or water.
- Landscaping and Yard Damage: The flames and heat from wildfires can destroy landscaping, gardens, outdoor structures, and other features in a yard.
- Utility Damage: Fires can damage utility systems within a home, including electrical wiring, plumbing, and HVAC systems. This damage is often expensive to repair and frequently requires extensive work.
- Secondary Damage from Exposure: Wildfire-damaged homes often sustain additional damage from exposure to the elements, such as rain or wind, especially if protective structures like roofs or walls are compromised.
What to Do If a Wildfire Damages Your Home in California
Dealing with the aftermath of a wildfire can be overwhelming. Still, it’s important to act swiftly and carefully to manage the situation effectively. Here’s what you should do:
- Before anything else, make sure you and your family are safe and accounted for.
- If necessary and practical, call 911 or local emergency services for immediate assistance.
- Adhere to evacuation orders from local authorities and do not return home until it is safe.
- Inform your homeowner’s insurance company about the damage as soon as possible.
- Take photographs or videos of all wildfire damage to your property or personal items.
- Create a detailed inventory of all damaged or destroyed property.
- Save receipts for all expenses related to the wildfire, including lodging, meals, and supplies.
- Take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage, like covering damaged windows or roofs.
- Contact an experienced California wildfire claim lawyer for legal advice.
- Ask your insurer for a complete copy of your insurance policy if you don’t have one on hand.
- Wait until an insurance adjuster has reviewed the damage before starting permanent repairs.
- Maintain a log of all communications related to your claim, including dates, names, and details.
- Review any settlement offers from your insurance company with your lawyer before accepting.
Filing a Wildfire Damage Claim in California
If you’re lucky, your insurer will honor the terms of its policy and pay you fairly once you submit your claim. More realistically, you might have to fight them to get the money you need. Knowing what to expect can help you prepare and protect your interests.
First, the insurance company will assign an adjuster to assess the damage to your property. Remember, this adjuster works for the insurance company, not for you. They will inspect your property, review the damage, and estimate repair costs. However, their estimates might not reflect the true extent or expense of the damage, especially if the inspection is cursory or they’re undercounting labor or material costs.
This is where a lawyer comes in handy. A California wildfire claim lawyer understands these tactics and can prepare your claim accordingly. They can help you understand your policy’s coverage, limitations, and exclusions, which can be complex and confusing to the layperson. They can also communicate and negotiate with the insurance company on your behalf, ensuring that it handles your claim fairly and demanding the compensation you are due.
Contact a California Wildfire Claim Attorney Now
If your home suffered damage in a California wildfire, you need and deserve legal representation from an experienced attorney. The team at Jurewitz Law Group Injury & Accident Lawyers is here to protect your rights and get you the resources you need to rebuild. Call (619) 233-5020 to learn more in a free case review with our California wildfire insurance claim lawyers.