What’s the Difference Between Filing a Claim With the Emergency Wildfire Fund and Filing a Wildfire Claim Against PG&E With the Bankruptcy Court?

Investigators have tied the Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E) utility company to several major wildfires in California over the last few years. These fires have damaged hundreds of thousands of acres of land, destroyed properties, caused serious injuries and taken lives. PG&E appears to have contributed to these fires through negligent power line maintenance and lack of wildfire prevention methods, according to reports. If you are a California resident with damages or expenses connected to a PG&E wildfire, learn the difference between two important outlets for recovery.

The PG&E Emergency Wildfire Fund

Several emergency wildfire funds exist to help people with expensive fire-related damages. On August 15th, 2019, PG&E announced its Wildfire Assistance Program to help those affected by the 2017 and 2018 California wildfires. This fund contains $105 million from PG&E to distribute among victims who do not have insurance to cover their losses. The fund prioritizes victims with urgent needs, such as people who do not have homes or shelters because of the fires.

  • The maximum wildfire fund payment is $5,000 per family.
  • Some families may qualify for additional supplemental unmet needs funds.
  • Applicants must not qualify for funds through the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
  • Applicants must establish proof that they lived in the areas the Northern California or Camp fires impacted.
  • Eligible expenses the wildfire fund will reimburse include housing, basic needs, medical bills, employment losses and emotional distress.

A relief application requires information such as your name, mailing address, contact information, your lawyer’s name (if applicable) and details about your losses. PG&E will begin paying eligible claimants by August 30th, 2019. The deadline for submitting your claim is November 15th, 2019. PG&E will continue paying eligible families until January 15th, 2020. The California Community Foundation lists additional resources and wildfire relief funds that may offer compensation for victims of the PG&E wildfires.

Bankruptcy Court Claims

PG&E set up the Emergency Wildfire Fund for people who did not have insurance on their homes or belongings lost in the wildfire. Anyone with losses from a PG&E wildfire, however, may file a bankruptcy claim, regardless of insurance. In January 2019, PG&E filed for bankruptcy in the face of wildfire liabilities and financial struggles. PG&E wildfire victims can file claims with the bankruptcy courts in pursuit of compensation from the negligent utility company. The deadline to file a PG&E wildfire claim with the bankruptcy court is October 21st, 2019 at 5:00 p.m. PST.

A family impacted by the Northern California or Camp wildfires may file a bankruptcy claim together rather than filing separate claims. To file together, a family must be related and live together. The bankruptcy courts do not make it mandatory for victims to have full evaluations of their damage claims at this time. In light of the impending deadline, they have offered an Unknown Value checkbox claimants can use so they can submit their claims in time.

Can I file a Claim With Both?

Filing with the bankruptcy court could result in better compensation than the $5,000 limit from the PG&E Emergency Wildfire Fund. Some families may be eligible for both types of recoveries. Receiving money from an Emergency Wildfire Fund claim does not bar you from joining the bankruptcy lawsuit against PG&E. Consult with an attorney to find out which route is best for you and your family.

Why Get Help from a Wildfire Attorney?

A lawyer can fill out, sign and file the bankruptcy claim form on your behalf before the October 21st deadline. The claims form can be complex and difficult to fill out, but a lawyer can make sure you do so correctly and on time. An attorney can also help you apply for Emergency Wildfire Fund relief by its separate deadline if you are eligible. Most wildfire attorneys only charge fees if you achieve a monetary settlement or verdict award. You can hire an attorney without any financial risk.