Nebraska wildfires ignite for a wide variety of reasons, including the use of combustible chemicals when attempting to start a small fire. In some cases, an act of negligence might start a wildfire. Examples include a person throwing a cigarette into a dry field, kids playing with fireworks, or sparks from industrial machinery. Regardless of the cause, a wildfire can easily blaze out of control, despite firefighters’ best efforts to contain it. The tragic aftermath of a wildfire can include property damage, serious injury, and even death.
If you suffered losses from a wildfire, you might be eligible for compensation. Call our compassionate legal team at the Robert Pahlke Law Group at (308) 633-4444 to schedule a free consultation, and to learn about the ways in which we might be able to help you move forward after the devastation of a wildfire.
Causes of Wildfires
Wildfires often begin and spread without anyone noticing and after it’s too late to stop their destruction. Natural causes, such as an unusually long-lasting hot lightning strike, might ignite a wildfire, but humans cause the majority of wildfires. A 2017 study conducted by the Carnegie Institute for Science examined over one million state and federal agency records of wildfires between 1992 and 2012. The study concluded that 84 percent of wildfires were man-made and that man-made fires caused nearly 50 percent of the total burned acres. According to the National Park Service (NPS), negligence causes the majority of man-made fires. According to the NPS, some of the most common causes of man-made wildfires include:
- Leaving campfires unattended
- Burning trash or debris
- Equipment use and malfunctions
- Negligently discarded cigarettes
- Intentional acts of arson
Property Damage Claims After a Nebraska Wildfire
When you file a claim with your insurance company after a wildfire, it might make you a settlement offer. These initial offers are typically low and fail to fully reimburse you for losses, because the insurance company might ignore some losses and undervalue others. You need a qualified attorney in your corner to maximize your chances of a larger payout. Until you get the chance to speak with one of our experienced wildfire claims attorneys, these are some important and necessary tips when dealing with your insurance carrier after a wildfire:
- Request an advance on your homeowners’ policy. If you completely lost your home or were forced to evacuate during a wildfire, you might be paying for a hotel or short-term apartment. Keep your receipts and ask your carrier to cover these expenses. Insurance companies will typically reimburse you for these expenses quickly.
- File a claim as soon as possible. Homeowners’ insurance policies have limits for filing a claim and generally want you to file immediately after a wildfire. Provide your carrier with a detailed list of items that you lost in the fire and the value of each item. You also need to include other information, such as the date of loss, the location of any damage, any injuries, the condition of your property, and a police report.
- Be thorough when you list damaged items and describe property damage. While you might have suffered a complete loss, there are specific types of property damage that occur as a result of wildfires. Examples include smoke damage, structural damage, collapsed or damaged roofs, plumbing damage, water damage, and electrical damage.
- Include loss of vegetation. If the wildfire left your property with multiple downed trees and burned brush, you need to include this loss in your claim.
- Keep all receipts, documents, bills, etc. Things like medical bills, home repair estimates, living expenses, and insurance documents will help your attorney support your claim. These items might serve as evidence of loss.
- Continue to pay your premiums. It’s important to make sure that you don’t have any gaps in your coverage while your insurance company is reviewing your claim, and make sure to update your policy to include your current address.
- Don’t accept any offers. Your carrier might make a quick settlement offer to tempt you and close your claim. It’s best to keep your claim open while law enforcement officers are investigating your case. You may also find additional losses and damage that you will want to add to your claim.
- Hire an attorney. A personal injury lawyer with experience handling cases that stem from wildfires can meet with you, review your policy, determine your limits, and possibly help you recover a larger settlement for your claim.
Personal Injury Lawsuits After a Nebraska Wildfire
Those who fail to evacuate or who are trapped by the progress of the flames may have grounds to file personal injury claims against the person who is responsible for the fire, and the surviving family members of victims who died in a wildfire may be able to file a wrongful death claim. Insurance claims may take care of the majority of your tangible losses, but they may not account for the intangible and non-economic losses. Also, replacing your personal possessions often costs significantly more than the compensation that your homeowner’s insurance policy grants you. If you sue the liable parties with the help of a qualified wildfire loss attorney, you may receive compensation for the following damages:
- Medical expenses. During a wildfire, victims might suffer minor to severe burns and have complications because of smoke inhalation. Medical costs might include ambulance and emergency services, hospitalization, multiple reconstructive surgeries for burns, pain medication, and more.
- Future medical expenses. Burn victims often need multiple reconstructive surgeries and continuous treatment for their recovery. Smoke inhalation might lead to lifelong complications. In either case, victims might receive compensation for long-term care.
- Lost wages. Complete home loss often results in time away from work without pay, and injuries, especially severe burns, may require extensive recovery that prevents victims from working and earning income.
- Business loss. Victims who own businesses that were damaged or lost in a wildfire are entitled to compensation for lost inventory and lost income.
- Loss of home. Wildfire victims are entitled to compensation to rebuild their homes as they were before the fire.
- Loss of personal possessions. Fire damage might include the loss of family heirlooms, photos, and other irreplaceable items. Victims can seek compensation for these items.
- Loss of a pet. When wildfires blaze, it’s not always possible to find or save household pets. If you lost a furry family member in a wildfire, the responsible party might be liable for damages related to your loss.
- Mental anguish. Losing one’s home and possessions after a fire has been linked to post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Victims may be eligible to receive compensation for this emotional trauma.
- Scarring and disfigurement. If a wildfire results in severe burns that leave permanent scars on a victim, he or she is entitled to compensation.
In the event that you lost a loved one in a wildfire and you file a wrongful death lawsuit against the liable party, you might be entitled to some of the aforementioned damages, in addition to funeral expenses, burial costs, and loss of inheritance. Surviving family members might also be eligible for non-economic damages that include:
- Mental anguish or pain and suffering for the loss of a loved one
- Loss of care, protection, and guidance from the deceased when survivors are dependent children
- Loss of companionship and love from the deceased
- Loss of consortium for a deceased spouse
At your initial consultation with one of our wrongful death attorneys, you can learn which damages apply to you and your family.
Why You Need a Wildfire Loss Attorney
In the aftermath of a wildfire, many victims choose to deal with their own insurance company claims or represent themselves in a lawsuit. Yet, wildfire loss cases are layered with complexities that require the expertise of a seasoned attorney. Without legal training, the average person doesn’t have the time, financial resources, or energy to fight alone while they are healing from injuries and trying to regain solid financial footing after a wildfire.
After the damage and destruction of a wildfire incident, your homeowner’s insurance company offering you a low settlement is not the worst thing that can happen; a denial of your claim is far worse. Homeowner’s insurance policies typically cover fire damage, but they specify the types of fire that the policy covers. In places where wildfires occur frequently, like western Nebraska, insurance carriers may not cover damage from wildfires. It’s important to understand your homeowner’s policy, including all of the fine print.
A skilled wildfire loss attorney will handle negotiations with insurance adjusters and ensure that you understand your rights after a wildfire. While we cannot guarantee a favorable result in your case, our legal team at the Robert Pahlke Law Group will hold liable parties accountable for their actions and aggressively pursue the best outcome for your situation.
Get Experienced Help for Your Wildfire Property Damage and Personal Injury Claims
The attorneys of the Robert Pahlke Law Group have more than 85 years of combined experience representing victims in personal injury lawsuits, and we have successfully recovered millions of dollars for our clients in the past. We can help you pursue the financial compensation that you need to rebuild your home and your life after a wildfire. Call the Robert Pahlke Law Group today at (308) 633-4444, or contact us online, to begin the recovery process. During your free consultation, one of our experienced wildfire loss attorneys can go through your insurance policy with you and determine the best path forward for your individual circumstances.