Fire Damage in Montana
From arson to electrical issues and camp or brush fires that get out of hand, these are just a few examples of how your car, home, place of business, other property, and, most importantly, you or your loved ones may end up getting injured or losing something or someone close to you. And trust us when we say that fire damage in Montana is a serious issue. Our law firm, Western Justice Associates, PLLC, regularly handles cases in which someone negligently ignited a blaze that caused preventable harm, and we also want to advocate for you. Reach out to our firm to share what happened so we can advise you of your rights and legal options.
Types of Fires
We already provided some examples of fires that may seemingly ignite out of nowhere and often result in unexpected, catastrophic property damage or loss of life or limb. Those and many others include:
- Electrical fires: This may involve vehicles, such as car wiring that gets dry rotted, frayed, or melted or engines that overheat, situations that can easily spread to the ground, leading nearby automobiles and properties to become engulfed. It may also include homes, garages, outposts, and places of business that are poorly wired or have deteriorating electrical systems. Fires may also ignite if overhead electrical wires are struck, such as by a crane, tree, or other item in the course or builders or arborists going about their work.
- Wildfires: Also commonly referred to as bush fires, these often get underway due to human error, such as the lighting up or disposal of a cigarette in a dry brush area or campers failing to properly put out their camp fire when leaving a wilderness area where they’ve been staying.
- Automobile fires: Aside from the electrical issues described above, a collision between two vehicles, especially if it occurs at a high rate of speed, can result in a fuel line being compromised, causing a blaze to get underway. Similarly, a wreck between a tanker truck carrying flammable substances like gasoline and a passenger car can set ablaze one vehicle and cause the fire to spread to one or more adjacent ones. Car fires can also happen because of a vehicle’s defective design or manufacturing.
- Arson: Montana Code Annotated 45-6-103 specifies how arson is unlawful in our state and how perpetrators of such a crime face stiff penalties for their action, yet this, unfortunately, doesn’t stop those with ill-intentions from intentionally setting blazes that destroy people’s homes, barns, offices, cars, and land or claim the lives of pets, livestock, and people.
Proving Negligence in Fire Damage Cases
Just like any other victim who suffers injuries or property losses, Montana law does allow for the filing of a civil suit to recover damages in most instances like these. However, it’s important to note that the responsibility for building a strong claim that establishes another party’s liability is your (and your attorney’s, if you have one) responsibility. Elements of negligence that you’ll need to prove to have a successful claim include:
- The defendant has a responsibility to exercise reasonable care: An example of this may be how a tanker truck operator had an obligation to be extra safe in operating their vehicle so as to not become entangled in an accident in which the gas they were carrying could have ignited.
- The defendant violated the duty of care they owed you: An example of this may be that a camper failed to extinguish a fire, which set a forest ablaze, which carried over both quickly and unexpectedly onto your land where you and your livestock were inside your barn.
- That breach of the defendant’s duty caused you to amass injury and/or damages: Take an example of a situation where an electrician fails to identify or notify you of problems with your building’s wiring that could ignite a fire, and the right set of circumstances lead them to ignite and they burn your office down, resulting in a complete loss of assets inside as well. These would all most likely be deemed as losses associated with the fire caused by the electrician’s negligence.
Generally, the final element of negligence is that you suffered some kind of quantifiable harm. Obviously, if you have, unfortunately, sustained burn injuries or your property is destroyed by a fire, it’s going to be apparent that you suffered losses. Medical bills, lost wages, and rehabilitation are all examples of expenses that can be calculated when personal injuries occur. An appraisal of the building structure and its contents can serve as proof of its value, for example.
Who Can You Hold Liable for a Fire?
As you might have already realized in reading about the different factors that can cause a fire to start, it may be possible to hold a negligent party (and their insurer, if applicable) liable for any injuries or damage to personal property. So, this means you might be able to file suit against negligent parties such as:
- A driver that caused a crash
- A manufacturer that produced a faulty product
- An electrician
- A warehouse that did not safely pack a truck full of lithium-ion batteries caught on fire
- A camper who disposed of a cigarette among dry brush or failed to put out their camp fire, thus allowing it to spread
While this doesn’t involve holding a specific party liable for the fire, if you have homeowners’, liability, car, renters’, or another type of insurance and the type coverage that covers fire damage, you may additionally or alternatively be able to file a claim against your own or someone else’s policy (depending on the nature of what happened) to recover some of the losses you sustained.
Damages You May Be Eligible to Receive Following a Blaze
Compensation recoverable after fires occur may vary depending on whether it resulted in injuries and property damage or just one or the other and other circumstances. Common recoverable losses after fire damage in Montana may include:
- Medical expenses
- Loss of wages
- Transportation expenses
- Hotel fees
- Storage unit costs
- The cost of your vehicle
- A home’s appraised value
- Renovation or reconstruction fees
- Replacement costs for damaged property
- Funeral or burial costs
In short, any costs you’ve incurred that you can attribute to the fire may be part of the amount you can request when filing a claim or lawsuit.
Why Getting an Attorney Involved in Your Case Makes a Difference
Here at Western Justice Associates, PLLC, our firm has long been representing clients after they’ve suffered health setbacks and loss of life and property in fires. This experience has made it where we know what it takes to build strong cases that yield the maximum compensation our clients deserve.
Since we regularly handle environmental law cases like these, we know the importance of getting the proper experts out to the scene of the blaze as quickly as possible to investigate it so fire cause and origin analyses can be made. We also know who to turn to for their specialized expertise in electrical engineering or arson forensics to help strengthen claims of liability. We know many competent fire restoration and other professionals who can help with loss valuations and perform rebuilding assessments, which can aid in justifying demands for certain amounts of monetary compensation.
When you are considering attorneys who handle fire damage in Montana, consider the ones who have played a hand in shaping Montana laws regarding these exact issues. That’s the type of legal counsel you can count on to aggressively advocate for you so that you get treated fairly by negligent parties and insurers as some semblance of justice for what you’ve been through. An initial consultation with our lawyers is completely free, so use our contact form to reach out to us now about your case to ensure you get the ball rolling before the statute of limitations runs out.