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Oakland Concert Warehouse Fire Compensation

Oakland Concert Warehouse Fire Compensation

Jimmy Doan and the staff of the Doan law Firm – San Francisco extends our condolences to the families of those who died in the tragic fire at the Ghost Ship artist collective in Oakland. We know that such times are among the most stressful that anyone can ever have the misfortune to endure, but we also know that you will prevail over your grief and emerge even stronger than before.

As the death toll from Friday night’s fire at the warehouse turned artists’ collective known locally as the Ghost Ship continues to rise, questions concerning liability for the deaths and injuries resulting from the fire are being raised.

Another post on this site, making use of preliminary reports and statements made by current and former residents of the Ghost Ship, suggests that the former warehouse’s owner and the City of Oakland may share some degree of liability for the disaster.

Definition of Wrongful Death

In California, a wrongful death occurs when one person dies as the result of the wrongful act or negligence of another person or group of people. By this definition, every victim of the Ghost Ship fire has died a wrongful death and their survivors have the right to be compensated for their losses by filing a wrongful death claim.

Who Can File a Wrongful Death Claim?

California civil law specifies that only the surviving family members, or the personal representative of a victim’s estate, can file a wrongful death claim.

As to the family survivors, the order of survivorship for family members is as follows:

  • the spouse or domestic partner of the victim, but the domestic partnership must have been registered
  • the surviving children of the victim
  • if there is no spouse, registered domestic partner, or children of the victim, then any person who could have inherited from the victim’s estate may file a wrongful death claim
  • in certain conditions, the “putative” spouse of the victim or the parents of the victim

What Damages Can Be Recovered By Families?

While nothing can replace the loss of a family member or a friend, the civil laws of California allow the surviving family members of fire victims to file wrongful death claims against all whose negligence contributed to this tragedy.

In general, family members can receive compensation for:

  • all funeral, burial, and related expenses
  • lost income that the victim could have made, and all support the victim would have provided to the survivors
  • emotional pain and suffering
  • legal expenses related to the death

California allows the defendants in wrongful death lawsuits to argue that the victim’s own actions may have contributed to their deaths. This is known as the doctrine of comparative negligence and, if successful, allows any awarded damages in a wrongful death claim to be reduced by the percentage that the victim was at least partially responsible.

Given the circumstances of the Ghost Ship fire, it is highly unlikely that this defense would be used, but it is mentioned here for the sake of completeness.

Statutes of Limitations and Wrongful Death Claims

California places a time limit, known as the statute of limitations, under which a wrongful death claim must be filed. In the case of the Ghost Ship fire, claims must be filed within 2 years of the date of death (in this case, filed by December 2, 2018).

Possible City / County Negligence As Contributing Factor

If the City of Oakland / Alameda County are found to have been less than efficient or even negligent in their investigations of the complaints received about the warehouse, the California Tort Claims Act will come into play.

A filing under the California Tort Claims Act is required for any claim that involves a city, county, or state employee or a government entity. In its simplest terms, this procedure is as follows:

  • A claim for compensation must be filed with the California Victims Compensation Board (calVCB) within 6 months of the date of death (for victims of the Ghost Ship fire, by June 2, 2017)
  • CalVCB then has 45 working days from the day the claim was received to either approve or deny the claim. If it denies the claim, it must inform you of the reasons and tell you how you may appeal the Board’s decision
  • You can elect to file a wrongful death claim with the courts, naming the Board and others as defendants.

Again, the staff of the Doan Law Firm would like to express our sympathies to the families touched by the Ghost Ship fire and will be glad to answer any questions that the survivors might have regarding legal issues related to this tragedy.

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  1. After an accident, the responsible party's insurance company may try to reduce the claim amount. Commonly, insurance adjusters are trained to get information from the injured to assist in reducing the claim. Though some insurers are less guilty of this practice than others, it is important to realize that insurance companies are profit-oriented corporations and reducing claims results in increased profits for shareholders. This can create a situation for the injured in which they are offered a settlement that does not truly reflect the damages suffered. If you accept this settlement, you lose the ability to get more money should your injuries require further medical treatments. It is critical that victims get legal assistance in any personal injury case, and The Doan Law Firm is prepared to fight relentlessly for your rights.
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