California Wildfire Lawyer: What to Do if a Wildfire Destroyed Your Home or Business

This video features Mikal C. Watts, a Personal Injury attorney based in Texas.

Representing Victims of Dixie Fire Against PG&E

Video Transcript:

Mikal Watts: 

That's my job to make sure that they get the justice that they're entitled to. Our first goal is to get people the money that they need to rebuild their homes.

Rob Rosenthal: 

If you're a victim of the Dixie wildfires in California, how do you know if you can get compensation for your losses and where do you turn for help? Well, we're gonna find the answer to those questions and a lot more right now because that's what we're going to ask the lawyer. Hi again everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with askthelawyers.com, and my guest is Attorney Mikal Watts, who has been helping wildfire victims all over the country, as a matter of fact, for several years now, and we're gonna get to him in just a second. I wanna let you know right off the top, if you have questions, and you wanna talk to Michael or his team about anything as far as wildfires, just call the number that's on the screen. That's the easiest way to do that. Michael, good to see you, thank you for helping us out today.

Mikal Watts: 

You bet, Rob, thanks. Thanks for having me on.

Rob Rosenthal: 

So let's just start off talking about wildfires in general. They happen, lightning strike or something like that, very little you can do about it, but I think you're here to tell me that some of these big wildfires we're hearing in the news lately, especially these ones in California, something could have been done to prevent those.

Mikal Watts: 

Well, about 68% of all the wildfires that have happened in California over the last five years have been caused by utility equipment. So what we're seeing up and down the West Coast is a repetitive failure by the utility companies to properly maintain their equipment, to properly manage the vegetation surrounding their equipment and their active lines, in high wind events, those two come together and you get wildfires. The real change is, is because of climate change issues, these wildfires are no longer controllable within 5000 or 10,000 acres, they become these mega-wildfires that more recently are burning up a million acres of land and all the homes and all of the property and all the lives that are inside those wildfires, they're uncontrollable.

Rob Rosenthal:

What can they expect? What's the process like? How long does it take? What do they need to do? Walk us through that a little bit.

Mikal Watts:

Generally, we represent people whose homes and properties and businesses burned down, that way we can focus on obtaining justice and redress and compensation for people who are hurt the worst. And so the concept is, is that we're trying to get PG&E in a position where they admit that their equipment caused the fire, they admit that they're financially responsible for the fire, and then we get in discussions about how much they're going to pay. And one thing I've learned is that we can all say we're gonna get somebody a magnificent amount of money, but if it takes six years, that's not near as valuable if we can do it quickly, so we're very involved in trying to do this as quickly as possible.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Their life has just been turned upside down, they may have nothing. Do they need to be prepared to come up with something out of pocket initially to hire your firm?

Mikal Watts: 

No, we encourage people, beware of people that are asking for money to do this, what we do is we work on a contingency fee, and contingency means we only get paid if we win, you don't have to put anything up front, I put up all the risk dollars, I hire all the experts, I do all the damages work up, which in some of these fires can be millions and millions and millions of dollars. Our standard deal, and it's standard across the industry, is contingency fee of one-third of what we recover.

Rob Rosenthal: 

And did you say you have offices in these towns or near these towns with people on the ground there?

Mikal Watts: 

Yeah, we do. I've got right now, I've got three offices in California, in addition to the four that we had in Texas, we have another office in Puerto Rico. Got about 240 people and 40 something lawyers that are working on this because we represent over 17,000 fire victims. The reason we have multiple offices in California is we made a promise in 2017 when we started on the North Bay fires that we would be there until the job was done, and we're still there. We intend to open offices with respect to the Dixie fire, both in Quincy and in Susanville, because our information is, is that the fire survivors from the Dixie fire have resettled in both Susanville and Quincy.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Is there ever a time, Mikal, when it's say too early to retain your services for people who are victims in the Dixie fire or is there ever a time when it's too late?

Mikal Watts: 

It's too late if you wait two years from the day of the fire, California has a statute of limitations of two years and we have to file your lawsuit by then, or it's gone forever. It's never too early for this reason. As we've done this year after year, from 2017-18, '19, '20, '21, we're trying to optimise the process, and of course, the most important thing is to get the process going quickly so that we can get people paid faster. There will be hundreds of these lawsuits that will be consolidated into the JCCP procedure, the faster we can get that consolidation done, the faster we can get to work, which is the faster that we can get to the end of the process and get people paid, so I really do encourage people that if you're ready, we're ready and we'll get to work right away.

Rob Rosenthal: 

Michael, tons of great information. I'm sure we could keep talking for another... Who knows how long. But thank you so much for taking some time to answer our questions.

Mikal Watts: 

Thank you for having me, I appreciate it.

Rob Rosenthal: 

That's gonna do it for this episode of Ask The Lawyer, my guest has been attorney Mikal Watts. Remember, if you want to talk to Mikal or someone on his team and ask questions about your specific situation, the best thing to do is call the number on the screen. Thanks for watching, everybody. I'm Rob Rosenthal with Ask The Lawyers.

This is a paid advertisement funded by the law firm of Watts Guerra LLC. The purpose is to reach prospective clients with respect to the matters described. Doug Boxer of The Law Office of Douglas Boxer is licensed to practice law in California. Attorneys identified, other than Doug Boxer, are licensed to practice law in the State of Texas. Mikal Watts is Board Certified in Personal Injury Law. Unless otherwise indicated, the attorneys listed are not board certified. This does not constitute a guarantee, warranty, or prediction regarding the outcome of your potential legal matter and does not constitute an attorney-client privilege or relationship. The principal offices of Watts Guerra LLC are located in Guaynabo, Puerto Rico. The principal office of the Law Office of Douglas Boxer is at 2561 California Park Drive, Suite 100, Chico, CA 95928. Doug Boxer, of The Law Office of Douglas Boxer, and Mikal Watts, of Watts Guerra LLC, are the attorneys responsible for the content of this advertisement.

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