Can I Sue for a Family Member’s Death in a Wildfire?

Fire can develop and spread rapidly in areas with large amounts of combustible vegetation. This usually happens in rural areas like forests, hills, and the like so it is called wildland fire or wildfire. It occurs every year in various degrees and in different parts of the country, though many of the worst cases seem to be concentrated on the West Coast. The raging fires can quickly cover miles of land and wreak havoc on communities. Many injuries and fatalities have been recorded in previous incidents. Many are asking, “Can I sue for a family member’s death in a wildfire?”

Causes of Wildfires

In order to answer this question, we must first have a clear idea about the causes of this destructive force.

Many of these are natural causes including lightning, dry climate, and volcanic eruption. If lightning happens to strike a dry tree, then the wood may ignite and affect the vegetation around it. There is a bigger chance of this spreading if the climate is dry and temperatures are high. A fire could ignite at small random area and rapidly expand because of all the ignitable material. In a volcanic eruption, lava could start a fire wherever it flows.  

It is also possible for humans to start fires in the wild. Sometimes people burn areas to clear them for farming and animal husbandry. In other cases, it is simple carelessness or even arson that leads to such destruction. Campers may try to cook meals the wrong way or throw cigarette butts onto dry grass. It is also possible for sparks from machinery and power structures to ignite a fire. In a few cases, the problem can be traced to arson or a willful burning with malicious intent. The arsonist may be purposefully trying to destroy the area for vengeance or enjoyment.

Wrongful Death

If your loved one dies in a wildfire, then you have every right to sue those responsible for your loss. Family members can specifically file a wrongful death claim in court to collect damages. Remember that some of these incidents were triggered by human actions, so the people can be made to pay compensation. It may also be possible to pin down an entity for its inaction or negligence. Several parties may have overseen preventing fires and failed to do so. This creates the issue of legal liability as a function of responsibility. Among those that have been previously taken to court for this type of case are local governments, the federal government, and utility companies.

Compensation for Damages

Since a lawsuit is a civil action, those who are found to be responsible will not be sent to jail but rather mandated by the court to pay compensation for the damages caused by the fire. The victims should get a reasonable amount to cover the medical bills, funeral expenses, lost wages, lost earning potential, and damages. The money will never really equal the loss of a loved one, but it can help the family get through a tough time. If the home was also lost in the fire, then starting again can be a long and difficult process.

Wildfire Litigation

This is a complex case given the extent of the damage, the number of victims, and the difficulty of determining the causes. Litigation will require the expertise of a Riverside wrongful death attorney that has specific knowledge and experience in dealing with wildfires and wrongful death. They should have enough resources to investigate the matter and a passion to fight for the victims, especially if powerful parties are named as defendants.

Washington Vehicle Safety Inspection Requirements

Before you take your vehicle out on the roads of Washington, there are certain steps you’ll need to take before you can do so. Some of these requirements include carrying minimum auto insurance coverage on your vehicle to protect yourself in the event of a collision, and possibly having a safety inspection done on your vehicle to ensure it’s safety. Below, we discuss these safety inspection requirements and what the exemptions to the rule are.

Emissions Testing

Washington adheres to the Clean Car Law. This means that all vehicles including vans, cars, SUVs and pickup trucks that were made in 2009 or later will need to be bought and sold, registered and operated based on California’s emissions standards.

Even if a car has less than 7,500 miles on it, or is owned by a new Washington resident it still needs to meet California emissions standards. You can determine whether your car meets these standards through your car’s engine compartment where the Vehicle Emissions Control information is located.

If your label says that your car is certified under CARB (the California Emissions standard), is certified for sale in all 50 states (50-state certified) or able to be sold in the Northeast, then your vehicle meets Washington state emissions compliance requirements.  


There are certain requirements that your car will need to meet in order to pass emissions testing. Certain components of your vehicle must be in working condition including oxygen sensors, and your exhaust system. Your check engine light must not be on either, or you can expect to immediately fail your emissions testing.

These tests must be completed before you register your vehicle, when you are renewing your registration, and at least every two years. If you live in Clark, Spokane, King, Snohomish, or Pierce county, you are obligated to follow Washington vehicle emissions testing requirements.


As with every rule there are a few exceptions to the safety inspection requirements in Washington. If you drive an eco-friendly vehicle such as a Toyota Prius or a vehicle that is powered by compressed natural gas, propane, electricity or liquid petroleum, then you are exempt from emissions testing. Diesel vehicles that were made in 2007 or later, or weight under 6,001 pounds are also exempt.

Additional exemptions include registered collectible vehicles, those that are over 25 years old, farm vehicles, and motorcycles, to name a few. If you are unsure about the status of your vehicle, you can call the Washington State Department of Licensing for more information.

Take Advantage of Your Free Claim Assessment Today

If you’ve been injured in an auto wreck and you’re unsure about whether your vehicle or the other involved car passed Washington state emissions requirements, get in touch with a qualified Seattle auto crash lawyer as soon as possible. An attorney can investigate the cause of the crash so that you can hold them accountable for their actions and secure full compensation for your damages.