Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel has filed multiple lawsuits against PG&E Company on behalf of victims of the Dixie Fires in California. The plaintiffs allege that PG&E, one of California’s largest natural gas and electric service providers, failed to anticipate that dry undergrowth around the company’s equipment would pose a wildfire threat. Specifically, the complaints state that “PG&E negligently, recklessly, and wantonly failed to maintain and operate the electrical equipment in its utility infrastructure.”
Wildfires resulting from a utility company’s equipment can cause massive-scale damages for residents and businesses.
When you are considering filing a PG&E lawsuit for the California wildfires, choosing the right Dixie Fire lawyer to represent you can be challenging. Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel has represented thousands of clients in claims against PG&E. We are here to help, and we encourage you to reach out.
Can You Sue PG&E for Wildfire Damages?
We have already filed lawsuits against PG&E it is liable for the Dixie fire. These lawsuits against PG&E will allow our clients to pursue damages for the harm the Dixie Fire caused.
Lawsuits against PG&E related to the DixieFire could include claims for:
- Personal injury: If because of the Dixie Fire you suffered medical expenses, emotional distress, pain and suffering, and other economic and non-economic damages, we could help you recover those damages.
- Lost wages: If the wildfire caused you to suffer injuries that forced you to stop working.
- Business interruption: If you and your employees needed to evacuate and, because of that evacuation your business was forced to close.
- Depreciation in land value: If the wildfire damaged your property, causing a drop in the property value.
- Damage to trees, timber, and crops: If you lost money because the wildfire damaged your timber, crops, and/or trees.
- Loss of use and enjoyment of property: If PG&E’s negligence prevented you from enjoying or using your wildfire-ravaged property.
Should You Pursue Damages From PG&E if You Have Insurance?
Yes. Even if you have fire or homeowners insurance, quite likely your damages from a wildfire will exceed your policy limits–which generally is based on the value of your property. Your policy may not even cover some damages, like emotional distress or the true cost of rebuilding your home or business destroyed by the fire.
If you suffered losses in the Dixie Fire in excess of your policy limits, Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel is able to file a lawsuit against PG&E to recover the difference between your total losses and the lesser amount t your policy covers.
Home Replacement and Repair
As the North Bay Business Journal reported, after the 2017 fires, labor and materials costs skyrocketed. Fire victims often found that with material cost increases their coverage based on their homes’ values fell short of what was needed to rebuild.
Furthermore, if you recently renovated your home and did not increase your coverage limits to reflect the upgrades, insurance will most likely not be able to cover the costs of repairing or replacing your home.
Wildfire damage to your home also includes damage to trees and landscaping. The replacement value of lost trees can be substantial.
Other Damages That Might Exceed Your Insurance Policy
There are these additional economic damages that could exceed your policy limits or that your policy does not cover.
These may include:
- Diminished property value
- Special limits of liability for some types of personal property
- Soil-related expenses (erosion, testing, runoff prevention, restoration)
- Business losses
- Livestock and crops
- Rental structures
You should also factor into your decision to sue for the non-economic damages you and your family have suffered due to a wildfire.
Filing a lawsuit allows victims of wildfires to potentially seek compensation for:
- Psychological trauma from fleeing from the fire
- Witnessing harm to your loved ones
- Loss of livelihood
- Loss of use and enjoyment of your property
How Can You Sue PG&E for Wildfire Damages?
If you want to sue PG&E for wildfire damages, you need an attorney who is experienced in wildfire litigation and wildfire lawsuits. One thing to be wary of is a settlement mill law firm. A settlement mill generates a high volume of cases without any particular concern for representing individual clients.
What Does Your California Wildfire Lawyer Need to Prove?
To prevail in a lawsuit against PG&E each plaintiff must establish the utility company’s liability. In other words, your lawyer will need to prove that PG&E’s equipment caused the wildfire, the company failed to take actions to prevent the fire, or the company broke the law or was in some other way negligent. Your lawyer will also need to prove the extent of your damages.
The National Wildfire Coordinating Group’s (NWCG) Guide to Wildland Fire Origin and Cause Determination explains what can cause powerlines to ignite major fires:
- Mylar balloons stuck on transmission lines.
- Arcing or failure of an insulator.
- Birds and small mammals
- Downed powerlines.
- Fallen trees and limbs.
- Blown fuses and open circuit breakers
- High winds or high temperatures before the fire.
- Pole damage, sometimes from a vehicle accident.
How PG&E Has Caused Wildfires to Date
PG&E has earned its reputation as a bad actor when it comes to causing California wildfires.
- According to coverage from ABC 7 News San Francisco, Cal Fire released a 2018 report in which found that the utility company was responsible for 12 fires that killed 44 people. Specifically, Cal Fire attributed the fires to “electric power and distribution lines, conductors and the failure of power poles.”
- In March of 2020, PG&E pleaded guilty to criminal charges, admitting to 84 counts of involuntary manslaughter for the 2018 Camp Fire in Butte County.
- The Dixie Fire is still under investigation. However, a PG&E incident report revealed that a troubleman from the company had observed a tree leaning into a conductor and a fire at the base of the tree.
How the Dixie Fire Affects Past PG&E Wildfire Victims
PG&E’s role in causing past California wildfires drove the utility company to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2019. However, the company emerged from Chapter 11 in 2020 after committing to pay $13.5 billion for uninsured damages caused by the 2017 wine country fires and the 2018 Camp Fire.
MarketWatch reports that damages from the 2019 Kincade Fire in Sonoma County and the 2020 Zogg Fire in Shasta County could cost PG&E an additional $600 million—on top of the $43 million the company has paid local governments for these fire-related costs.
When Gov. Gavin Newsom brokered PG&E’s bankruptcy plan in 2020, victims of previous wildfires that the utility company allegedly caused received compensation consisting partly of cash ($6.75 billion) and partly of shares in PG&E ($6.75 billion).
The settlement was to cover damages for wildfires between 2015 and 2018, culminating in the Camp Fire, in which the utility company pleaded guilty to 84 felony manslaughter. After the 2018 disaster, PG&E announced its inability to compensate all the victims, and the company declared bankruptcy.
Victims Not Made Whole
According to Newsom’s bankruptcy plan, the company’s stock should have been worth around $6.75 billion, but its actual value at the time required a 56 percent increase in the stock price for fire victims-turned-shareholders to be “made whole,” Sacramento’s ABC10 reported.
Then the Dixie Fire struck, and on July 26, 2021, ABC10 announced that PG&E stock had dropped to $4 billion. As company shareholders, the people who suffered from PG&E’s earlier alleged negligence could now be paying for another round of the company’s alleged negligence.
Can PG&E Pay for So Many Wildfire Lawsuits?
While it may appear that PG&E is financially tapped out, if evidence surfaces to establish PG&E’s liability, victims who have suffered damages from wildfires caused by the company’s negligence should know they have access to an additional source of funds.
PG&E Has Access to $21 Billion to Cover Wildfire Lawsuits
In July of 2021, California lawmakers passed legislation that included the $21 billion California Wildfire Fund, which covers damages from wildfires caused by power companies. PG&E contributed an initial $4.8 billion to the fund. Edison International contributed an additional $2.4 billion, and Sempra Energy added $450 million to the fund, reports Insurance Journal.
New Lawsuit Against PG&E Executives and Board Members
In February 2021, a new lawsuit was filed in San Francisco Superior Court seeking greater t compensation for the 61,000 wildfire victims (2017 and 2018) alleged to have been caused by PG&E equipment. According to the complaints, executives and board members from the utility company should be held accountable for damages.
The 60-page complaint stated, “The Defendants put profits before safety, which has resulted in the two separate catastrophic events which are the subject of this lawsuit.” According to the lawsuit, the top brass at PG&E failed in their responsibility to ensure that the company’s electric grids could safely operate during hazardous fire weather conditions.
The lawsuit further alleges that:
- PG&E failed to shut power off in preparation for a predicted dry, inland windstorm (sparking the 2017 fires).
- In 2017, PG&E was already six years behind schedule on the company’s vegetation management program.
- PG&E officers and directors establish the policies and procedures that should minimize the potentially devastating risk of wildfires.
- PG&E failed to follow through on inspections and documentation to ensure the safety of its equipment (hence, the breaking of a nearly 100-year old hook that sparked dry vegetation and ignited the 2018 fire in Butte County).
Hire a California Wildfire Attorney: Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel
Victims of California wildfires have suffered enough. After the trauma of escaping and/or surviving such a disaster, victims of preventable wildfires deserve compensation for the losses they have endured.
After the preventable Dixie Wildfire, Reiner, Slaughter, Mainzer & Frankel is here to help victims. We have 40 years of experience fighting for the compensation our clients deserve. Let us help you now. Call us today for a free consultation at (530) 891-1909.