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Can I Sue for Wildfire Damage?

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What Is a Wildfire?

A wildfire is a fire that burns over grassland or in a forest. This type of fire may be caused by nature or human error, and it is usually unplanned. Human error includes a person starting a wildfire by:

  • An intentional act of arson
  • Negligently discarding a lit cigarette
  • Leaving a campfire unattended
  • Burning debris
  • Utility company equipment, such as overheated equipment and faulty power lines

Can I Sue for Wildfire Damage?

An individual or company may sue for wildfire damage if the fire was caused by negligence or intent. Negligence is defined as a failure to use care an ordinary individual would use in similar or same circumstances. The amount of care used depends on the situation. A duty of care involves not causing harm.

For example, a person camping at a campground owes a duty of care not to start a fire at the campground. The camper would be violating that duty if he flicks a lit cigarette on the ground and that lit cigarette starts a wildfire. Anyone harmed by the camper’s actions may file a civil tort lawsuit against him.

What Is an Intentional Tort?

An intentional tort is an action done with the intent to harm or the knowledge that it will harm. The term “harm” refers to injuring people and damage to property.

For example, assume someone decides to start a fire in the forest and actually starts a fire in the forest. The arsonist’s act of starting the fire was done intentionally. Thus, anyone harmed by the wildfire could sue the arsonist.

Both negligence and intentional torts fall in the category of personal injury. However, each has different elements required to successful prove wildfire damage.

Should I Contact an Attorney about Suing for Wildfire Damage?

When wildfire damage is the result of human error, you have the right to sue. It is highly recommended that you speak with a personal injury attorney about how to proceed with a claim.

Photo of page author Taelonnda Sewell

, LegalMatch Legal Writer

Last Modified: 11-16-2015 12:02 PM PST

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