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house fire

What Damages Are Available After a Catastrophic Fire?

A fire in your home or place of business can disrupt your life for many months. Whether recovering from injuries or picking up the pieces from a home you must rebuild, you deserve total compensation. If a fire caused severe injuries or property damage because of another person’s negligence, you have the right to hold them accountable. The Charlotte personal injury lawyers at Charles G. Monnett III & Associates help those across the state who have been injured by or have lost property to catastrophic fires.

Fire-Related Injury Claims

Victims of fires and other burn incidents are often left with physical and psychological scars and injuries that leave them with overwhelming medical bills, lost wages, and life-changing pain and suffering. When someone else caused the burn injury because of their negligence — such as an apartment landlord failing to follow fire safety laws, an employer not following workplace safety regulations, or a tractor-trailer who failed to follow traffic safety rules and causes a wreck resulting in an explosion — the victim may be able to recover fair compensation for these and other losses under North Carolina law.

Types of Burns

There are four main types of burns:

  • Thermal burns – caused by contact with fire, steam, hot liquids, or other sources of extreme heat.
  • Light burns – caused by sunlight or ultraviolet light.
  • Chemical burns – caused by an acid, alkali, or chemical explosion.
  • Radiation burns – caused by contact with nuclear radiation.

Burns also occur in varying levels of severity. These include:

  • First-degree burns – only the top layer of skin is damaged. First-degree burns are characterized by redness and minor inflammation. These burns cause minimal damage and usually heal within a week. They can often be treated with aloe vera gel and cool water.
  • Second-degree burns – damage goes beyond the top layer of skin. Second-degree burns are characterized by extremely red, blistered skin. These burns may take weeks to heal and should be properly bandaged.
  • Third-degree burns – The worst type of burn, the damage extends through all layers of skin and can affect organs and bones. A white or black dry wound and charring characterize third-degree burns. Third-degree burns can cause permanent nerve damage, hypothermia, and even death, so seek emergency medical treatment immediately.

There are two nationally recognized burn centers in North Carolina. The North Carolina Jaycee Burn Center is in Chapel Hill, and the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Center Burn Center is in Winston-Salem.

Compensation for Fire-Related Injuries

You deserve fair compensation if a third party’s negligence caused your injuries. The amount of your recovery is impacted by the degree of your injuries and how those injuries will affect your life in the future. North Carolina recognizes several different types of “damages,” including:

  1. Past and future medical, pharmaceutical, and other health care expenses.
  2. Past and future lost wages and diminished earning capacity.
  3. Loss of use of a body part.
  4. Past and future physical and emotional pain and suffering.
  5. Past and future disfigurement.

These damages are best calculated using expert witnesses, including life care planners and economists. Our firm can assist you in locating experts who will best represent your case. Recovering total compensation in a severe injury case without experts can be difficult. Additionally, we will highlight the daily difficulties associated with your injuries, including the emotional trauma of disfigurement and pain.

Property Damages Due to Fire

Fire damage can be severe, expensive, and frustrating for property owners. Fires can rapidly damage building structures, ruin personal property and often destroy sentimental items. They quickly spread and can affect the entirety of the building. Common property damage due to fire includes:

  • Structural damage.
  • Foundation damage.
  • Roof damage.
  • Destroyed furniture.
  • Damage to appliances and electrical items.
  • Discoloration of walls and belongings.
  • Odor from smoke.
  • Damaged electrical systems.
  • Damaged plumbing systems.

These are just some of the property damages that can occur from fires. The fine details and specific language in your policy will determine whether your damages are covered and, if so, the amount you can be reimbursed (e.g., actual cash value v. replacement cost). A fire-damaged property attorney can assist you in interpreting your policy and facilitate the recovery you deserve.

Property Damage Claim Denials

Insurance companies can have little compassion for your situation. They run a business and, unfortunately, will treat your claim accordingly. This mentality by the insurance company often translates into underpaid or denied claims. The simple truth is that, despite what they say, the insurance company is not looking out for your best interests.

As with any property damage claim, if you make a fire claim against your North Carolina homeowners’ insurance coverage policy, you must give verifiable evidence and reasons for your claim. Insurers are working for-profit and will search for reasons to deny or underpay your claim. Sometimes these tactics can lead to evidence that the insurer is acting in ‘bad faith’ related to the adjustment of your claim. Some examples of common bad-faith behaviors from Insurance Companies include:

  • Overlooking or undervaluing property damage.
  • Efforts to reduce, delay, or deny payment without a reasonable or fair basis.
  • Allegations of Arson.
  • Violation of the terms of the insurance policy.
  • Delaying communication, valuations, and payments to frustrate you into accepting a low payment.

Insurance companies can go to extreme lengths to blame the fire on the owner of the property. An experienced North Carolina fire damage attorney will have the knowledge and resources to objectively analyze the damage claim to help the property owner understand all their options.

Representation for Fire-Related Injuries and Property Damage

If you have yet to file a claim, it is wise to get started as soon as possible with the support of a fire property damage lawyer to make sure you are compensated correctly for the damages. Our office has extensive experience representing those injured by the negligence of others, and our partner firm previously represented clients from a 2017 fire in Raleigh.

We will offer a contingency fee arrangement if we can assist you with your case. This means you will not owe any attorneys’ fees unless and until we make a financial recovery. We will advance all costs of handling your claim, including hiring the multiple expert witnesses frequently needed in burn injury or fire damage cases.

Contact us today if you have questions about this blog post or have experienced fire property damage or injury. To schedule a free consultation, visit our contact page or call (704) 859-2003.

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