The philosophy of California law is to put a person harmed by another in as close a position as possible to where he or she was just before the fire. There are three general areas of recovery:
- Property damage,
- Business/employment loss, and
- Personal loss.
Below is a breakdown of how these typical types of recovery may work for those impacted by the wildfire.
If a person intends to rebuild his or her home and restore the property, the following are generally recoverable:
- Replacement cost of all structures. The estimate of today’s cost to rebuild will be provided by an established builder.
- Replacement cost of all personal property. Personal property includes all property not attached to the ground. Personal property would include home contents, vehicles, etc. This estimate will be provided by personal property appraisers working off inventories provided by the owner of the property.
- Restoration of trees and landscape. Since it is prohibitively expensive to re-plant a 100-year oak tree, the value of the loss of trees is typically done by an accepted methodology to account for the age and size of the trees and also provide for replanting of the same species of tree at a maximum reasonable size. A local landscaper can provide an estimate of the cost of replacing burned landscape, such as plants, ground cover, and irrigation.
- Replacement/repair of fencing, gates, and roads. Fire debris removal and clean-up.
- Loss of use. The inability to use your property is called loss of use and has an economic value recoverable in damages, usually associated with the rental value of the property
If a person does not intend to rebuild or replace damaged property, the measure of damages is calculated differently. Generally, it’s the difference between the market value of the property the day before compared to the day after the fire. This measure is more subject to argument than replacement cost because it is subject to market fluctuations as well as appraiser opinions.
Everyone’s property is different and unique, and there may be loss not covered by the general categories above. It is important to remember the goal of the law to make a person “whole,” and approach your damages work-up on that basis.
Recovery for Employment/Business Loss
Lost wages and lost profits from a business are legally recoverable as long as the loss was directly caused by the fire. At some point, the courts draw the line on recovery, for example excluding recovery for a business loss caused by a general downturn of business caused by a catastrophe in the absence of physical harm to the business itself.
Recovery for Personal Loss
Sometimes the personal loss is more important to a person than the property loss. The types of personal losses recoverable include:
- Personal injury or death,
- Mental suffering from escaping the fire and the loss of a home, sentimental and cherished items, and everything else of personal value,
- Economic value of time spent in fire recovery,
- Annoyance, disturbance and emotional distress from the loss of and inability to use your property,
- Alternate living expenses above and beyond living expenses you would have spent before the fire incurred during the period of fire recovery, and
- Loss of animals and pets.
If you have any questions about the Camp Fire litigation, we welcome you to contact the Camp Fire Trial Lawyers at 530-755-7810.