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Doubt thou the stars are fire;

Doubt that the sun doth move.


Fire devastates. Fires in California have caused serious damages to people’s homes, personal property, and businesses. It’s important to know the types of damages recoverable in a fire damage claim in California.

You first need to determine whether you have a first or a third party claim. A first party claim is a contractual claim and is brought against your insurance company. In other words, your property is damaged by fire and you make an insurance claim. A third party claim is a tort (i.e., civil wrong) claim and is brought against a third party (e.g., the government, a utility company, your neighbor).

What Are The Types Of Damages In A First Party Fire Damage Claim In California?

First party claims are generally limited by contract language. For example, if fire is a “covered peril” under your policy, you make a claim for your insured property damaged in the fire. Here are commonly insured property you could recover in a first party fire damage claim:

  • Your home (e.g., “dwelling”);
  • Your personal property (e.g., your stuff);
  • “Other structures” such as a fence or unattached garage;
  • Business interruption if a commercial policy covers commercial property;
  • Code upgrades;
  • Debris removal;
  • Smoke damage
  • Damage to landscape and trees;
  • You could also recover as damages “additional living expenses,” also known as “loss of use” for the time you can’t live in the home. Those damages include “additional living expenses” like hotel costs and eating out. It can also include additional gas mileage.

Many people are underinsured. It’s thought that 60% of American homes are uninsured by an average of about 20%. And fire damage in California can be significant. If you’re underinsured and the fire damage is significant, you may not have enough insurance to recover. Any you may have to deal with the Made Whole Doctrine, which is another problem.

What Are The Types Of Damages In A Third Party Fire Damage Claim In California?

Third party claims are different. These claims are brought against responsible third parties, not your insurance company. The responsible third parties could be governments, utility companies, neighbors. Evan has represented clients who’ve made claims against all three.

Here are commonly insured property you could recover in a third party fire damage claim:

  • Personal injury;
  • Mental distress
  • Wrongful death;
  • Pain, suffering, and related “general damages”;
  • Inverse condemnation damages; (this is complicated, but read more about it here: Inverse Condemnation);
  • Subsidence damage; and
  • Most damages you could recover in a first party fire damage claim: your home, personal property, “other structures,” business interruption, smoke damage, and damage to landscape and trees.

It’s important to know the measure of damages too. Check out CACI 3903F for more info.

Questions? Contact Me.

Evan Walker

Evan W. Walker is a La Jolla attorney who has practiced law since 2008. He has practiced law throughout California, Connecticut, and Louisiana.

Evan worked for and defended insurance companies during the first 7 years of his practice. Since 2015, he has represented people with personal injury and property damage claims and insurance disputes.

Evan’s practice is devoted to serious personal injury claims and catastrophic property damage claims. Areas of focus include security claims against bars and other businesses, government tort claims, fire and flood claims, and inverse condemnation. On behalf of clients, Evan has fought insurance firms, international companies, cities, bars, and casinos.

Evan regularly shares his expertise with other attorneys by teaching courses on insurance and inverse condemnation. He has taught several continuing legal education courses to Attorney Credits, a nationwide CLE company, and ProLawCLE, another nationwide CLE company. He also contributes to various podcasts and publications.


  • Member, State Bar of California
  • Member, San Diego Bar Association
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of California
  • Member, Consumer Attorneys of San Diego
  • Member, La Jolla Bar Association
  • Member, La Jolla Village Merchants Association
  • Member, San Diego Chamber of Commerce