Large City Lawsuits

Wildfire Q&A

We've got answers to your most frequently-asked questions. Here you'll find answers to questions we get frequently. Do not hesitate to contact us at any time with any questions or concerns you have; we're always available to take your call.

Is SCE liable For Damage Caused By The Fires, Even If High-Speed Winds Contributed?

The California Constitution contains a provision that provides for a legal claim known as inverse condemnation.This theory holds that if a governmental entity—or a privately-held public utility like SCE— “takes” or “damages” property of a citizen in the course of its operations, it is responsible for harm caused to the owner’s property. The entity is liable for the fair-market value of the property harmed. The claim is similar to eminent domain, except the order is reversed, which is why the claim is called inverse condemnation. In this case, if the evidence demonstrates SCE’s powerlines caused the Thomas Fire, SCE will be per se liable for the property damage caused by the fires. The theory of inverse condemnation has been used to great effect in previous wildfire lawsuits, in holding public utilities responsible for the harm they caused. And as recently as June 22, 2017, PG&E was found liable under the theory in the 2015 Butte Fire case. (the cause of Butte Fire was a tree branch coming into contact with one of PG&E’s powerlines).

SCE may be liable additionally for damages greater than the fair-market value of lost property, under different theories of California state tort liability, for example, negligence. These damages are broader in scope and include, but are not limited to: personal injuries, emotional distress, replacement costs for real and personal property, trees, landscaping, erosion remediation, lost income and business profits, and cherished possessions. We evaluate each of your cases individually, with the intention of holding SCE liable to the full extent of the law. This ensures you obtain maximum recovery.

What If I Have Insurance?

We encourage you to work with your insurance carrier to obtain the maximum compensation you are entitled to under your policy; our website provides resources to assist you with this process. We will also work with you and assist in filing insurance claims and forms, including the preparation of personal-property lists, and other itemized losses.

Unfortunately, most insurance policies won’t fully compensate you for your damages. If losses exceed your policy’s maximum benefit limit (almost certainly the case), you will be out-of-pocket for the difference. Insurers commonly fail their policy holders: providing only a fixed amount to rebuild your home, and amounts for personal property that are greatly depreciated or don’t cover certain categories, and with a certain percentage, usually less than 100%, available for landscaping, such as a payment per tree or shrub, which is well below their actual replacement cost.

Insurance also will not cover: pain and suffering, time spent away loved ones, personal injuries caused by the fire, such as smoke inhalation, and the emotional distress and inconvenience associated with the evacuation and rebuild process.
So save your receipts, and work with your carrier. However, remember an insurance company’s interests is averse to yours, and you will absolutely need an experienced wildfire attorney on your side to assist you in recovering everything you’re owed.

Why Do I Need a Wildfire Attorney?

Our fire attorneys bring experience to your case: knowledge gained through the representation of hundreds of fire survivors like you. Our attorneys work with you on your case from start to finish: requesting insurance documents, analyzing your insurance payouts, and assisting with submission of documentation to your carrier. Our team of experts will fully price out the rebuild of your property, including your home and landscaping. We will find every possible means of recovery available to you, so you receive the full compensation you’re entitled to under law.

After the insurance process, we are your fiercest advocates in the litigation against SCE (and other liable parties). We request documents on your behalf, prepare legal documents, depose key witnesses and parties, and ensure your maximum compensation. These are things that can’t be done on your own; only an experienced wildfire attorney can provide these services to you.
You will be inundated by marketing materials from other lawyers. The first question you must ask a prospective attorney is: how many wildfire cases have you personally handled? If they haven’t personally handled a wildfire case, your case could be a learning experience for them. We’ve been through this process hundreds of times. We have nothing left to learn; we put our experience to work for you, right away, without trial and error.

How Much Does a Wildfire Attorney Cost?

We prosecute all fire cases on a contingency basis. This means that you pay nothing unless we successfully recover for you. We front all out-of-pocket costs; if we don’t obtain a recovery for you, you do not pay any fees or costs.

What If I’m a Renter?

Renters are often hardest hit by wildfires. Perhaps you weren’t expecting that a disaster like the Thomas Fire could happen to you. Often you haven’t purchased renter’s insurance, believing that your landlord’s policy would cover any losses. Sadly, in most cases you are not covered by a homeowner’s policy. It is therefore imperative you contact an experienced wildfire attorney as your recovery is limited to what can be recovered from SCE and other parties. Only an experienced wildfire attorney can make a demand from these powerful corporations.

Renters are entitled to recover for all their losses, including, among other things, lost personal property, displacement costs, and increased rent. We will assist you in navigating the claims process, and help you put your life back together.

What If I Had Only Smoke and Soot Damage?

Smoke and soot damage can last sometimes for years after a wildfire. Soot will get stuck in a home’s insulation and hard to reach cracks. If you have insurance, your insurance company will send out a cleaning company, like ServePro or Service Master. These companies are paid on a per foot basis by the insurance companies, and they focus on volume, as opposed to making sure your house is fully cleaned. Countless of our prior-clients have had to reclean their homes numerous times after one of these companies cleaned their home. In the past, we have had utilities compensate our clients for the work they had to perform personally, or have third parties perform, to get their homes to pre-fire condition.

How Can SCE Cover Such Extraordinary Losses?

Utilities are required to carry massive insurance policies, which cover fires. Additionally, they are required to set aside funding for catastrophic events (like the fires). As evidenced by previous California wildfire settlements, (San Diego Gas & Electric settled over 2,000 fire claims [totaling over $2 billion] relating to the 2007 San Diego Wildfires), responsible utilities will be held accountable for the damages they cause—and, as required by law, they have the resources to do so. Additionally, if SCE is found to have negligently causing the fires they will be unable to pass the costs on to the ratepayers.