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Deadline Extended to 10/31/19 Deadline – Compensation for Uninsured & Underinsured 2017 & 2018 Fire Survivors & Fire-Affected

11/5/19 – Deadline has been extended to 12/31/19.  See https://www.pressdemocrat.com/news/10263771-181/pge-agrees-to-extend-deadline

Think you don’t qualify to file a creditor’s claim in the PG&E Bankruptcy?  You may not realize you have a claim until after the 10/21/19 deadline.  Filing a Proof of Claim “holds your place” and gives you time to decide how you want to proceed.

By not filing a creditor’s claim (officially called a “proof of claim“) by 10/21/19 in PG&E’s bankruptcy, Fire-affected and Fire Survivors’ financial compensation will likely go to the insurance companies instead. (It’s like letting the IRS keep your money or letting them give your money to someone else.)

California Governor Gavin Newsom issued this statementMost vulnerable in this [bankruptcy] are the wildfire victims who were uninsured, underinsured or have potential claims against the company for personal injury and wrongful death… [who] should not be left to fend for themselves . . . outnumbered by sophisticated and deep-pocketed financial institutions and insurance companies.” [emphasis mine]

Scroll to the bottom of this page if you think there must be a “catch” to all this. 

From PG&E’s Bankruptcy Information Website:  “If you . . . believe you have a claim against [PG&E Corporation and Pacific Gas and Electric Company] for personal injury or wrongful death, property damage, or other loss . . . relating to the fires that occurred in Northern California in 2015, 2017, and 2018 (the “Northern California Fires”), you MUST file a Fire Proof of Claim for your Fire Claim by the October 21, 2019 Bar Date. If you fail to do so, your claim may be barred, and you may not receive any distribution.” [emphasis mine] Also see PG&E’s Reorganization Information Website

When PG&E filed for bankruptcy after the 2018 Camp Fire, it became a “debtor” that owes money to its creditors.  Insurance companies have filed their proofs of claim to hold their place in line to receive payment from PG&E due to its role in the 2017 and 2018 fires.  PG&E has already offered insurance companies billions of dollars (the bankruptcy court has not yet allowed such payment).  If you were filing a personal bankruptcy, creditors such as your mortgage and auto lender, your landlord, and your utilities such as PG&E would not hesitate to file a proof of claim against you.  For them, it’s just business.

Filing a Proof of Claim in PG&E’s Bankruptcy is NOT “suing” them.  In the bankruptcy, there is no need to prove whether PG&E caused the fires.  Rather, the bankruptcy court decides who PG&E owes money to, but fire survivors and fire-affected can only be paid if they file a proof of claim.  

Monday, October 21, 2019 is the deadline
for submitting proofs of claim
against PG&E for losses relating to the
2017 and 2018
California Fires not covered by insurance

Filing a proof of claim in PG&E’s bankruptcy
doesn’t require a lawyer,
doesn’t cost money, and
requires very little effort.

According to PGEFireInfo.com, many folks wrongly assume:

  • PG&E is broke (it’s not).

  • The payments will be small (they won’t).

  • They won’t live long enough to see any money (you’ll get paid within a year).

  • The claims process is complicated (it takes ten minutes).

See California Public Utilities Commission,  United Policyholders’ Webinar and PGEFireInfo.com for filing instructions and more information. 

You will need to provide details later to describe what your losses were (rent, lost wages, underinsured for dwelling or personal property, medical bills, and any other costs or losses due to the 2017 or 2018 fires and not covered by insurance).  You can decide later to use a lawyer, or you can decide you don’t want to continue.  But if you don’t file by 10/21/19, you lose the right to file a claim (unless the bankruptcy court extends the deadline, which I wouldn’t assume will happen).

Claims are not limited to those who lost their homes. If you ran out the door with virtually nothing, drove through smoke and flames, were shut out of your home for weeks only to return a burned-out wasteland, you have a claim for emotional distress. Chances are you had smoke damage, lost trees and landscaping, and property damage that was not covered fully by insurance.

If you were a renter or lived in a mobile home, you lost personal property and were almost certainly underinsured. Or simply uninsured.  

Anyone affected by the many fires that tore through California should file a claim. These relevant fires are: Atlas, Butte, Camp, Cascade, Cherokee, Highway 37, Honey, La Porte, Lobo, Mayacama, McCourtney, Nuns (which includes Adobe, Norrbom, Patrick, Pressley, and Oakmont fires), Pocket, Point, Potter/Redwood, Sullivan, Sulphur, and Tubbs fires.

Claimants may complete the form electronically, mail it in, or send it via overnight courier (eg, FedEx, Priority Mail).

  • The claims process is simpler than many believe.
  • Claims are not limited to property damage; they include lost income, loss of community, and emotional distress.
  • Victims do not need to hire lawyers or know the monetary value of their claim before filing.
  • This rapidly approaching deadline has fire victims scrambling to file claims, and many more are unaware that they are about to lose their right to file forever.

Much of the above is from PGE Bankruptcy Fire Claims – Press Release 2019.

So, What’s the Catch?  

Someone is trying to sell me something, right? 
Nope.  No one is selling anything.  However, apparently if not enough fire survivors/fire-affected file proofs of claim, the bankruptcy court may not allow any fire survivor/fire-affected claims to be paid.  So, yes, for those who have filed their proofs of claim, including the fire survivors of pgefireinfo.com, they want as many fire survivors/fire-affected as possible to file proofs of claim as creditors against PG&E in its bankruptcy.

From the CPUC:  On Feb. 1, 2019 Governor Newsom called on the Bankruptcy Court to ensure wildfire survivors, PG&E employees, and customers have a significant voice inside the courtroom.

Who is United Policyholders?
UP is a consumer protection nonprofit organization informing and guiding people on disaster-related insurance claims for over 27 years.

Who is behind PGEFireInfo.com?
PGEFireInfo.com is a group of five volunteers who lost their homes in Santa Rosa and Glen Ellen, dedicated to helping their neighbors and communities throughout Northern California receive a fair recovery from PG&E for the devastating losses from the recent fires.
James Finn III, MD (Tubbs Fire) ~ Howard Klepper (Nuns Fire) ~ Helen Sedwick (Nuns Fire) ~ Robert and Linda Upton (Nuns Fire)

Am I really going to get any money? 
Honestly, I have no idea.  PGEFireInfo.com and United Policyholders’Webinar have information, but I am not in a position to make any promises.  I only know that folks who don’t file will definitely not get compensation from PG&E for their fire-related losses.

All this is painful.  I want to move forward.  I don’t want to dwell on this.  
I get it.  Folks need to make the choices that are best for their families.  But I want fire survivors, especially the underinsured and uninsured, to make informed decisions.

I’m not sure what to do. 
You could file a proof of claim with or without a lawyer by Monday, October 21, 2019.  You can choose later to continue without a lawyer, continue with a lawyer, or choose to not continue at all.  You could ask a family member or trusted friend to help you file the initial proof of claim.  You could decide you don’t want to file a proof of claim.

I thought Neighbors Together SR doesn’t give advice.   
I am expressing my opinion and my reasoning.  I lost my house in the 2017 Tubbs Fire.  I lost my entire neighborhood.  Just in Sonoma County, over 5,000 families lost their homes, with thousands more adversely affected by the fires.  Enough evidence through the decades has proven that PG&E is not a responsible neighbor, and I believe PG&E should be held accountable.  The recent “de-energizations” did not prove otherwise.

I am sharing this information because if there really is money available to compensate fire survivors, I want them/us to get it.  I have filed a proof of claim because:
(1) I have fire-related losses not covered by insurance;
(2) even if my claim is denied but someone else who is uninsured or more underinsured can be compensated a little, that will be a win;
(3) I would hate for insurance companies, who are worth billions of dollars, and many of whom have treated many of their insureds poorly, to potentially take money away from fire survivors.

I have chosen to use an attorney because it *is* painful to think about my personal losses, and I don’t have time for yet another post-disaster task.  I admit I am not looking forward to having to provide details later in order to support my claim.  And attorneys working on these cases are paid only on contingency (they are paid only if the client is awarded any money).  It is worth it to me to “lose” 25-35% of any money to my lawyer, since 35% of nothing is nothing.

But it comes down to personal preference, tolerance, and capacity.  Unlike me, some folks will be happy to file on their own.

IMPORTANT:  PLEASE research the facts for yourself.  I am not an expert on this topic. 

I make no representations about the outcome of the bankruptcy, what fire survivors/fire-affected may receive from PG&E, the amount of work claimants will need to do after October 21, 2019.

Neighbors Together ~ Strong & Resilient (NTSR) [usually] does not provide any advice or endorse any service provider or agency. 

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