California Wildfire LawyerBaum Hedlund2020-03-24T16:49:43-07:00
California Wildfire Lawyer
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The California fire attorneys at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman are investigating the Woolsey Fire affecting Ventura and Los Angeles Counties, and the Camp Fire in Butte County, the deadliest wildfire in state history. Officials are probing utility companies Southern California Edison and Pacific Gas & Electric Company (PG&E) for possible roles in sparking the fires.
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Camp Fire victims at risk of not receiving in full what is owed to them have the right to vote on PG&E’s bankruptcy exit plan by May 15, 2020. PG&E will mail the ballots to fire victims by March 31, 2020. The court seems to be working on the case despite the court closings, so we expect that deadline to be met. Please read the ballots carefully. If you have questions after you read it, please contact us and we will try to answer your questions.
California wildfires have killed dozens of people and destroyed thousands of acres. Those who suffered harm or lost their homes, land or property may ask themselves who, if anyone, is responsible for the cost of rebuilding their lives.
California fire victims have legal rights and may have compensation claims for serious injuries, property loss or other damages. Your first step toward resolving insurance issues or pursuing a claim against a responsible party should be to retain an experienced California wildfire lawyer to advocate on your behalf.
The law firm of Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman has experience representing victims of mass disasters, including fires. Our firm has helped thousands of clients recover more than $4 billion across all areas of practice. If you were affected by a California wildfire, fill out our contact form or give us a call at 800-827-0087 for a free case evaluation.
Diane Marger Moore is one of the most experienced fire trial lawyers in the country. She is a board-certified trial advocate and the lead California wildfire lawyer for Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. She has over 40 years of experience trying civil and criminal fire cases before juries, including her work as Chief Deputy Arson Prosecutor in Indiana.
Diane has substantial experience in investigating and determining the cause(s) of fires, having worked closely with fire investigation units, the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF), various State Fire Marshals, and multiple city and county fire departments in her career. She also handled many civil fire cases as an insurance defense lawyer. In addition to her courtroom experience, Diane attended ATF fire investigation courses at the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Georgia.
Ron is a Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman senior partner and a board-certified trial lawyer. Since becoming a lawyer more than 50 years ago, Ron has handled complex litigation at both the trial and appellate levels, and has represented hundreds of people involving personal injury and wrongful death claims related to mass disasters.
He has made countless TV, radio and other media appearances as a legal expert for some of the world’s leading news agencies, including BBC Radio, ANN News Tokyo, Associated Press, Bloomberg News, BNA Product Safety & Liability Reporter, Chicago Tribune, Forbes.com, Fox News Channel, Guardian Limited, Los Angeles Times, MSNBC, National Law Journal, NPR, and the Washington Post.
Michael is the managing partner at Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman. He has successfully led the firm through thousands of wrongful death and personal injury cases stemming from mass disasters.
His experience litigating fire cases began in 1987 when he worked on the Dupont Plaza Hotel arson case, one of the deadliest hotel fires in U.S. history. Under Michael’s leadership, Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman developed a reputation for breaking new ground, holding Fortune 500 companies accountable, influencing public policy, raising public awareness and improving product safety.
Cara has 30 years of experience litigating catastrophic injury and wrongful death cases stemming from mass disasters. Before she became an attorney, Cara worked in the insurance industry, first as a sales person and then as a claims adjuster. This experience gives her the skill required to help our clients with insurance matters, as well as the ability to communicate effectively with counsel for the defense and their insurance adjusters in complex cases such as this.
Brian is the founding partner of Strange & Butler LLP, based in Los Angeles. He is co-counsel to Baum Hedlund, handling the California wildfire litigation. Brian is an experienced and respected class action and complex business trial lawyer with over 30 years of experience. He lives in the Malibu burn area and has personal knowledge of the devastation due to the fire. Brian is listed in Southern California Super Lawyers and Best Lawyers in America-Best Law Firms.Brian is a former President of the Malibu Boys and Girls Club.
Named one of Time magazine’s “Heroes for the Planet” for his success helping Riverkeeper lead the fight to restore the Hudson River, Bobby’s reputation as a resolute defender of the environment stems from a proven track record of success against major corporations.
Mike is a nationally recognized expert in fire investigation working with the Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman California wildfire lawsuit team. He has extensive experience investigating numerous large, multi-million-dollar loss and fire fatality scenes, multi-defendant arson-for-profit cases, and serial arsonists and bombers. Mike will be working alongside fire causation expert, James Finneran, in determining or excluding electrical causes of the fire.
He began his career at ATF, where he worked for nearly 24 years. Mike spent the last 15 and a half years of his time at ATF working as a Special Agent Certified Fire Investigator and was also a member of ATF’s National Response Team. Mike is a member of NFPA National Fire Protection Association and National Society of Professional Insurance Investigators.
James has over 35 years of experience in origin and cause investigations, product failure analysis as well as electrical and electronic evaluations. As part of the Baum Hedlund California wildfire litigation team, he will be using his extensive experience in determining or excluding electrical causes of the fire.
He is a member of the ASTM Forensic Engineering Committee, the NFPA 921 Committee, and the IEEE. Jim is a Certified Fire Investigator and a Certified Fire and Explosion Investigator. To further his own expertise, Jim has taken part in seminars by the International Association of Arson Investigators, the NFPA and the Defense Research Institute, Inc.
Are Utility Companies Liable for California Wildfires?
Those affected by California wildfires can choose to pursue legal action against any party that may be responsible for causing the fire, including utility companies like Pacific Gas &Electric Company (PG&E) and Edison International (Southern California Edison).
In November 2018, Southern California Edison and PG&E both reported irregularities in their equipment near the time that two major California wildfires started – the Paradise Camp fire in Northern California and the Woolsey Fire in Southern California.
Utility companies have been accused of starting numerous California wildfires over the last several years. Southern California Edison admitted to causing at least one ignition point in the 2017 Thomas fire in Santa Barbara and Ventura counties that destroyed more than 1,000 buildings and killed two people, later triggering mudslides that killed an additional 21.
In June of 2018, Cal Fire issued a report blaming PG&E California for several major 2017 wildfires in Northern California that resulted in dozens of deaths and the destruction of thousands of structures. According to Cal Fire, the Atlas, Nuns and Redwood fires were caused by PG&E’s “electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.” The report came a month after the agency blamed four other wildfires, including the wine country fires, on “trees coming into contact with power lines.”
On March 20, 2020, PG&E reached a bankruptcy deal pledging billions to wildfire victims. PG&E agreed to use shareholder funding to reduce its debt load and submit to stronger regulatory oversight. Failure to make safety enhancements could lead to the state of California taking over the utility. Likewise, if PG&E fails to receive court approval for its bankruptcy exit by June 30, 2020, the utility will be forced to put itself up for sale.
Three days later stringing the bankruptcy agreement, PG&E stated in a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) that it pleaded guilty to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter related to the Camp Fire. PG&E also noted in the filing that it pleaded guilty to one count of causing a fire in violation of the state penal code. Per the filing, PG&E will pay the maximum total fine and penalty of approximately $3.5 million, plus an additional $500,000 to the Butte County District Attorney Environmental and Consumer Protection Fund to reimburse costs spent on the investigation of the 2018 Camp fire.
Justice for Victims of California Fires
Pursuing a legal remedy against a utility company for damages stemming from a California wildfire requires a complex inquiry.
The claimants must establish that either:
The utility company’s equipment caused the wildfire
Or the actions or inactions of the utility company caused the wildfire.
Or the utility company was negligent or otherwise violated the law.
To properly handle your case, you need an experienced California wildfire lawyer to investigate and advocate on your behalf.
Fire Insurance California – Does Homeowner’s Insurance Cover a Wildfire?
Sorting out the complexities of homeowner’s insurance is a pressing issue for victims of wildfires. Most people are under the impression that their homeowner’s insurance covers wildfire damage. While most policies do cover fire damage (even if a fire is not the result of an incident in the home), those who live in fire-prone areas may be required to purchase additional coverage explicitly related to wildfires.
The problem: some insurance companies do not disclose the need for this additional coverage (which can come at a significant cost), so policyholders are unaware that they lack coverage in a wildfire. Others have simply stopped providing policies for homes in fire-prone areas or dropped fire coverage altogether without informing policyholders.
Even if you have an insurance policy that covers wildfire damage, the insurance company may seize upon any opportunity to deny coverage and limit their exposure, which could be many millions.
How Can an Attorney Help?
If you don’t have insurance that covers wildfires, you need an attorney to help you hold accountable those responsible for starting the fire. Like with the PG&E fire, when a utility company has started a fire, California law requires they pay damages resulting from that fire. Therefore, even if you find yourself uninsured, or worse, become injured or lose a loved one, there is still a way to get justice and compensation for your losses.
An attorney can also be helpful even if you do have full-coverage insurance. Anyone who has filed an insurance claim knows how draining the process can be, and unfortunately, this is especially so for the victims of wildfires. Home insurance policyholders need experienced legal representation to advocate on their behalf and find the compensation they are entitled to after suffering serious losses.
Our team of fire attorneys can help ensure that your policy claims are processed honestly and in good faith. We accomplish this by conducting our own investigation into your losses to ensure that insurance adjusters do not falsely invalidate any of your claims.
Your Advocate Fighting for Justice after a California Wildfire
Taking legal action is one of the best ways to correct the troubling corporate behavior of California utility companies responsible for wildfires. At Baum, Hedlund, Aristei & Goldman, we are not only invested in making you and your family financially whole again; we want to send a message to these multi-billion-dollar companies that California residents will not tolerate their negligence and wrongdoing.