I am a bushfire victim. Who can I sue and what losses can I recover?
If the Defendant in the class action you are involved in is found to have negligently started the fire that caused your loss and damage, you are entitled to recover a sum of money that will put you back into the position in which you would have been, had the fire not occurred - so far as money can do so.
What are some of the common categories of bushfire losses, for which financial compensation can be recovered?
You can be financially compensated for your time spent fighting the fire on your property, clean up associated with the bushfire, losses of vehicles, plant, machinery, fences, places of residence, buildings (sheds, workshops, garages, children’s cubbyhouses, poultry enclosures, etc), contents of residences or other buildings, destroyed hay and grain, damage to or loss of crops, pasture, livestock, firewood, urban and farm trees, gardens and loss of income.
I want to recover compensation for my bushfire losses. What should I do?
You should register your interest on the Maddens Lawyers Register of Interest form, which can be found here. This will immediately transfer your name and contact details to our computer data base. We will then correspond with you and forward you a Data Workbook which will enable you to summarise details of your losses, for return to us.
How are my losses assessed in monetary terms?
We have engaged a panel of experienced bushfire loss assessor experts who will visit your property, talk to you and review the information in your Fire Loss Data Workbook. Our assessors will undertake a full stocktake of your losses and then assess these losses in monetary terms.
Do Maddens Lawyers charge upfront costs or fees to fire victims?
No. We offer a conditional costs contract (otherwise known as a “no win, no fee” agreement). We bear all out of pocket expenses associated with the legal proceedings and in the event of an unsuccessful outcome no fire victim receives a bill of costs from us.
I believe that I was fully insured. Why should I make a claim?
It is unlikely you were fully insured.
The items that are able to be claimed under law are often different to the items claimable under a policy of insurance.
For instance, you can be financially compensated for tree and garden loss, or for the time that you, or other volunteers spent to clean up and restore property, provided the Class Action is successful.
Those issues are not usually covered by insurance.
Additionally, if you lost pasture or trees, they will not have been insured. Even when insurance recovery is available, most fire victims find that their insurance recovery is far less than is required to fully cover what they lost. Fire insurance companies are likely to seek recovery of their losses through legal process, but will not seek to add your uninsured losses to their claim.
Why should I engage Maddens Lawyers to recover my bushfire losses?
Maddens Lawyers are Australia's experts in bushfire litigation. We have successfully acted for hundreds of bushfire victims following the 1983 Ash Wednesday Bushfires, and have also represented hundreds of victims of four separate Black Saturday Bushfires, which burnt across Victoria on 7 February 2009. Maddens Lawyers was the first legal team to successfully settle any Class Action following the Black Saturday bushfires, and has since settled, and commenced other bushfire Class Actions on behalf of hundreds of other victims of fires across Victoria and New South Wales. We are experienced, knowledgeable and understand not only the legal process required to conduct this action. We also have a first-hand understanding - and appreciation of - the impact of these proceedings and the unique needs of bushfire victims seeking restitution for what they suffered in a fire.
What will my costs be if my claim is successful?
In the event of a successful class action the Defendant is likely to be required to pay a significant proportion of our legal costs.
We have provided detailed costs estimates in our Cost Disclosure Notice. We do not calculate costs as a percentage of damages recovered for each client.
Any shortfall on legal costs actually incurred and the costs recovered from the defendant will be divided across the group.
Your costs contribution will be calculated on a rateable proportion of the sum you recover as a fraction of the total damages recovered in the class action.
I've heard a reference to a 'Directions Hearing'. What is that?
A Directions Hearing is an opportunity for the lawyers to discuss, and the Court to hear, various details of the case in preparation for the trial down the track - it is effectively preparation for the pending trial. Some of the topics covered in a Directions Hearing include witness statements, dates that certain documents are due to be provided to the Court, and the expert witnesses each party expects to call. Directions Hearings are an important part of the process, but if you are considering coming along for a look, it may be worth knowing they are not the most interesting part of the process, either!
Do I have to work out the value of everything I've lost or had damaged?
Rest assured you don't need to try and work out how much this fire has cost you. That is for us to do. Because we have done this many times before, we have an excellent understanding of what items you can claim and how they are valued. Your data workbook is part of this process - hence the importance of filling it out with as much detail as possible. If and when the time comes to work out how much compensation you are entitled to, we will make sure we work closely with you so that we can ensure you are getting all you are entitled to.
When should I return my Data Workbook to Maddens Lawyers?
We don't have a specific due date for the return of Data Workbooks. What is more important is that everything that was lost or damaged in the fire has been included in the Workbook. The more detail you can include in your Workbook, the better - for example, pre and post-fire photographs, receipts, quotations, sketches of your garden layout before the fire - as much detail as you can possibly gather. We are finding that as people start to rebuild, they begin to recall more and more the items that they are missing, or what needs to be replaced. So even if you think your workbook is close to complete, it is better to hold on to it for a little while longer, just in case you recall some extra details. If anything happens and we need your workbook before you've returned it, rest assured we will be in touch.