Oct. 10, 2019 – Chico, California – – Thousands of victims of the devastating California wildfires from 2015 through 2018 who are eligible for compensation may not see a dime if they do not file a claim with the bankruptcy court before the October 21, 2019 deadline.
The claim deadline has drawn the ire of many, considering PG&E, the company responsible for sparking the 2018 Camp Fire, has either shut off power or plans to shut off power to thousands of potential claimants over the next several days. While the outages may not stop potential claimants from filing, they certainly are not making it easier for the victims.
“If PG&E cared about the people whose lives were irreparably damaged as a result of these fires, they would ask the bankruptcy court to grant an extension so victims’ claims are not in any way impeded by the power outages,” says board-certified attorney Diane Marger Moore, who heads Baum Hedlund Aristei & Goldman’s wildfire litigation team.
Camp Fire victims who do not file claims with the bankruptcy court against PG&E by the October 21 deadline will not be able to recover money for their losses or injuries sustained as a result of the November 2018 wildfires. If victims do not file compensation claims with the bankruptcy court, PG&E investors could end up retaining the unclaimed funds.
Misinformation Rampant Among Victims Still Overwhelmed by Camp Fire Losses
Wildfire victims who have yet to file claims may not have done so for a variety of reasons. They may believe:
- They need proof of losses to file a claim
- Their filing a claim takes money away from other victims
- They need a lawyer to file the claim
- Their insurance compensation prevents them from receiving compensation from PG&E
None of the above is true. Victims can receive compensation from PG&E even if insurance has covered some of their losses and they do not need proof of their losses to file their claim. Furthermore, each individual claim does not take money from other victims. The fewer people who file claims, the more money will go to PG&E investors.
According to reporting from the New York Times, many victims are still living in tents, in temporary housing, or even on the streets—and have not received notification of the claim process or looming deadline. Some victims may still be consumed with rebuilding their lives and finding places to live. Others wonder how they can prove their losses, or may simply find the process too intimidating.
Anywhere from 75,000 to 100,000 people were likely affected by the California wildfires. So far, approximately 31,000 have filed claims. That leaves thousands of people who could be eligible to receive compensation from PG&E but will not if their claim is not filed by October 21, 2019.
PG&E’s equipment and vegetation management have been blamed for several fires that destroyed thousands of homes and killed hundreds of people. In January 2019, the utility filed for bankruptcy protection.
If you or your family members were affected by the California wildfires, it is imperative that you file a claim before the deadline passes in order to have the best possible opportunity to receive compensation for your losses. You do not need an attorney to file a claim. If you are uncertain about filling out the claim form or proving your losses, an experienced attorney can answer your questions and help you with the process.
“The victims of this preventable fire have lost their homes, pets, trees and in many cases, their dignity as they have tried to survive this devastating event,” says Diane Marger Moore. “And now, with the Bankruptcy Court filings, PG&E hopes to deprive them of justice. Everyone who was a victim of this fire must file a claim to prevent this from happening again. We urge you, with or without a lawyer, to complete your claim form and file it with the court before October 21, 2019. You can file your claim online or you can call us as soon as possible so that we may file it for you. We are only filing claims for our clients. If you are not yet represented by legal counsel and want help, we suggest you hire an attorney ASAP.