What To Do About Small Fire-related Claims Against PG&E


Suppose your Kenwood home survived the Nuns fire, but you lost fencing and a shed. Replacing both cost $6,000, and your insurance company paid you $1,000 because you had a $5,000 deductible. Should you file a claim against PG&E for the $5,000? Do you need to hire an attorney and pay a contingency fee to file a claim for you?

Yes, you should file a claim, and no, you don’t need a lawyer, especially for a small claim.

Even if you have a small loss from a PG&E-caused fire, you have nothing to lose and a lot to gain by filing a Proof of Claim form in the PG&E bankruptcy. The forms must be filed no later than the “Bar Date” of October 21, 2019. If you don’t file, you will lose the right to make a claim against PG&E for the 2017 and 2018 fires.

The Proof of Claim form is simple. (I’ll walk you through completing the form later in this email.) You do not need to include documentation or other proof; that will happen later. In fact, I discourage people from including documentation because the Proof of Claim forms could be made public and your documentation may include personal and confidential information.

You don’t need a lawyer to file a Proof of Claim form, although if you have a large claim you should consider working with a lawyer. You can email me and I’ll help you find an attorney. For cases like this PG&E case, lawyers do not charge you upfront. Instead, their fee will be a percentage of what you receive from PG&E. Some charge 20%, and others go as high as 35%. For a small claim, it may not make sense to pay an attorney such a large portion of your recovery. 

As it looks now, individual tort claimants may recover somewhere between 50% to 100% of their claims for losses from any PG&E-caused fire other than the Tubbs Fire. (The percentage is being fought out among the lawyers.) If your losses were from the Tubbs Fire, it’s too soon to say how large your recovery will be, but it will be something. I’ll discuss the Tubbs Fire in a later email.

Here is how the process will work.

As part of PG&E’s final bankruptcy plan, billions of dollars will be put into a trust to pay individuals fire victims who have submitted Proof of Claim forms. That trust will be administered by a professional trust/mediation company that will evaluate each claim and determine the payment. You will submit documentation of your losses as part of that process. This evaluation and distribution process will happen in 2020.

Since there could be as many as 30,000 claims by individual fire victims, the trust administrator is likely to use formulas for calculating damages and payments. You will have an opportunity to demonstrate that your damages exceed what you would get under the formula. If you don’t have an attorney, you may want to hire an attorney for the trust administration process, depending on the size and complexity of your claim. An attorney will help you develop and present support for your claims. Again, email me for a referral.

Your claims will cover the following:

  • economic losses, such as replacement of property not covered by insurance, loss of trees, lost income, and medical expenses, and
  • “non-economic” losses such as the emotional distress of evacuation, loss of home, and community.

Don’t worry if you can’t put a dollar amount of your losses on the Proof of Claim form. Valuing your claim will be part of the trust administration process.

And, I want to emphasize that no claim is too small. If your claim is $5,000, and you recover $3,000, you are still better off.

You can download the Proof of Claim form at https://restructuring.primeclerk.com/pge/EPOC-Index.  In the column on the right side of the page, you’ll see Fire Claimant Proof of Claim Form. Click on that link to download the form.

Make sure you are using the right form. Believe it or not, PG&E mailed us the wrong form and they have yet to send us the right one. Not confidence inspiring, is it?

Filing out the form

If you are using an attorney, your attorney will probably file the Proof of Claim for you. Check with your attorney to make sure it’s clear which one of you is filing the form.

If you are filing out and filing the form yourself, here are my instructions.



1. Who is the current creditor?

Insert your name

2. Has this claim be acquired from someone else?

Check “No” unless you bought the claim from someone else.

3. Are you filing on behalf of your family?

You may include your family, spouse, or domestic partner. Or you may each file separately.

4. Where should notices and payments to the creditor be sent?

If you are not using an attorney, fill in your contact information.

5. Does this claim amend one already filed?

Check “No” if this is your first filing. Check “Yes” if you are amending an earlier filing.

6. Do you know if anyone else has filed a proof of claim for this claim?

Check “No” unless someone else has filed a proof of claim for you.

7. What fire is the basis of your claim?

Check the appropriate box. The “North Bay Fires” are the Atlas, 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. If you don’t know which fire affected you, email me and we will figure it out together.

8. What are the loss locations(s) where you and/or your family suffered harm?

List all locations of loss by address or other identification.

9.  How were you and/or your family harmed?

Check all that apply. 

10. What damages are you and/or your family claiming/seeking?

Check all that apply plus “Punitive, exemplary, and statutory damages”, “Attorney’s fees and litigation costs”, “Interest”, and “Any and all other damages recoverable under California law”.

11. How much is the claim?

Check “Unknown/to be determined at a later time” UNLESS you know the exact amount of your claim and it’s small. Since these forms may be made public, I recommend against putting in any large amount.

Part 3: The person completing this proof of claim must sign and date it.

If you are filling out the form for yourself and/or your family, check “I am the creditor.” Sign and date it. Fill in the contact info below the signature.

Don’t be too concerned about the warning that a person making a fraudulent claim could be fined or imprisoned. If you make a mistake, an honest one, that’s not fraud. “Fraud” means an intentional misrepresentation, deceit, or concealment of a known, material fact with the intention of depriving a person of property or legal rights or otherwise causing injury. In other words, it’s intentionally deceiving someone for the purpose of stealing or causing injury. If you have a reasonable basis for making a claim, then submitting this form is not fraud even if your claim is denied.

Submitting the form

You may fill in the form electronically at https://restructuring.primeclerk.com/pge/EPOC-Index, or you may mail it in, or send it via overnight courier (e.g.; FedEx, Priority Mail), or drop off the form at one of the addresses on the last page of the instructions. Include a stamped, self-addressed envelope and a copy of the form so you can get confirmation that it has been filed. If you are using regular mail, send it first class, return receipt requested. Keep the confirmation and proof of delivery in case something goes wrong.

Remember – the Proof of Claim form must be received by PG&E no later than 5 PM on October 21, 2019. If you fail to file the form by then, you will be barred from making a claim against PG&E for the 2017 and 2018 fires.

Barred means that’s the end. No recovery. So file a Proof of Claim even if you can’t decide. You can change your mind later and drop it. But if you don’t file the form by October 21, 2019, you can no longer change your mind. End of story.

If you want to continue to receive my updates about the PG&E case, please sign up for my newsletter here or email me at helen@bennettvalleylaw.com. Your information will be kept completely confidential. I won’t share it with anyone. You may unsubscribe at any time.