San Francisco Bay Area And Northern California Disaster Claims: Earthquakes, Fires, and Floods

-Posted On September 21, 2018 In Serious Injuries-

California has become increasingly notorious for our major catastrophes, including among other disasters, earthquakes , fires and floods. If disaster strikes, whether a person is covered by homeowner’s insurance or not, what many people don’t realize is that injury lawyers are often the best source of help. Whether you need help filing a claim for property damage or personal injuries arising from a disaster, or whether you need help seeking accountability from those responsible for a disaster, consulting with a San Francisco injury attorney is undoubtedly a great place to start. A San Francisco personal injury lawyer will be able to explain your options and help you to navigate the claims process to ultimate success.

Filing a Disaster Claim

After any catastrophic event you should immediately take the first steps toward filing an insurance claim. Although insurance companies are required to open any claim they receive from you, there are  cases where your insurance company will not open a claim and you should get  help from a qualified insurance claim lawyer.

If your insurance company does not act reasonably in opening a fire claim or a flood claim or an earthquake claim, you can immediately contact the California Department of Insurance. There is approximately a one-year time window to report your claim to your own insurance company. Insurance companies may possibly deny your claim if you’ve taken any longer to report.


Once your claim has been filed after a catastrophic event like an earthquake, fire or flood, the process of  assessing all the damages to your real  property like your home, and to your personal property, like your furniture, clothes and belongings  should now be started. The first step in figuring out how much your insurance company should pay you is to request to immediately be assigned a claims adjuster trained to assess the damage in your specific case. Actually, before disaster strikes, you should have photos and or video and receipts for your personal property stored somewhere safe,  to assist you and your insurance company representative in evaluating the monetary extent of your loss. It is a good idea to keep the evidence demonstrating your personal property in a safety deposit box or stored somewhere cloud-based for safety.

If an adjuster or claims representative is not assigned to you right away, then you should insist on immediately being assigned a claims representative so you can move forward in the process of evaluation of your loss. Inspection of your property as soon as possible should be agreed upon, which can be challenging in a disaster environment where many other people have losses similar to yours. It is your responsibility to inform the inspector or adjuster assigned to your claim of all of the damage to your property. Keep in mind to point out and review lesser visible areas such as hard to reach crawlspaces and shifted foundations.

These claim adjusters are trained to find any possible damages to many different kinds of properties. But even in a case where something has been overlooked, a follow up  inspection appointment should be made.

Pay Up

Residing in the state of California, it is important to decide whether to buy earthquake insurance or not in case of a catastrophic event. Buying homeowners insurance for fire is a must, and your need for flood insurance may depend on where your home is located.

If you’re wondering what you should do if you are not able to afford earthquake insurance, there a few precautionary steps you might consider. These include:

  • Applying bolts/latches to tall and/or heavy furniture such as cabinets, china cabinets, bookcases.
  • Taping or tying down expensive electronics like televisions and computers.
  • Not waiting until after the earthquake to act. All methods are clearly ineffective if waiting until after the fact.
  • These days, with fire danger so high, it is a good idea to take preventative measures like clearing the brush and dried leaves from around your home, and even employing a tree service to cut back trees that are more prone to burn quickly and more hot.

If you believe that you have been treated unfairly or your insurance company has failed to adequately compensate you for your losses, it is a good idea to consult with an insurance bad faith attorney, who understands the laws and regulations and how insurance companies owe you a duty of good faith and fair dealing.

Claims Against Other Parties for Starting or Contributing to Disasters 

Once you have opened your own insurance claim and have started the process of evaluating your claim, you should also consult with an attorney who can advise if there is a good potential claim against another party for either starting a fire or causing a flood or contributing to the disaster. A San Francisco personal injury lawyer is a great with whom you can consult to determine your option to make what is called a third party claim. We have several examples of making third party claims against PG&E for the San Bruno explosion, and the more recent Wine Country catastrophic fires in Napa and Sonoma Counties. If you believe there might be a person or a company or even a public entity responsible for causing or contributing to a disaster, you should immediately contact a qualified attorney with experience in handling fire cases and flood cases.

The attorneys at Choulos Choulos and Wyle have decades of experience handling earthquake claims and fire claims and even flood claims against all parties who share responsibility for these kinds of disasters.

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