Is PG&E Responsible for the Napa & Sonoma Fires?

PG&E’s Longstanding History of Noncompliance

Pacific Gas and Electric (PG&E) has faithfully served the Northern California community for 112 years. However, in the past 23 years, PG&E has become the number one suspect for most Northern California wildfires.

It started in 1994, when PG&E was found negligent in the Rough and Ready Fire that destroyed 12 homes. Although the amount of destruction from the Rough and Ready Fire was on the lesser side, investigations into PG&E revealed immense corporate corruption. PG&E diverted almost $80 million from tree-trimming program budgets into PG&E profits. Money that was meant to secure tree branches from electrical components was used for company gains. It was this negligence that lead to the Rough and Ready Fire and the subsequent destruction of 12 homes.

Here is a list of other fires where PG&E safety violations were proven to be the igniter:

  • Campbell Fire, 1990
  • Fawn Hill Fire, 1992
  • Sailor Fire, 1995
  • Sonoma County Fire, 1996

PG&E’s dance with negligence hardly stopped after 1996. 2 years ago, the Butte Fire killed 2 people while destroying 549 homes. When investigations took place, it was found that PG&E failed to maintain power lines, a mistake that ended up causing the fire. PG&E was hit with an $8.3 million fine—a drop in the bucket compared to the $800 million in liability insurance that PG&E currently holds.

Holding PG&E Accountable for Your Loss

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Current Status of PG&E Investigations

Currently, CalFire is investigating PG&E while simultaneously helping the Sonoma and Napa Valleys.

In just over a month, CalFire has collected items such as:

  • Line fused cutouts
  • Overhead conductors owned by PG&E customers
  • Electrical poles
  • Primary conductors
  • Secondary conductors
  • Field-phase primary insulator

No definitive evidence of the start of the fires has been produced at this time. However, authorities like CalFire will find the igniters eventually.

PG&E Prepares Resistance

While CalFire continues to gather evidence, PG&E is well aware of its status as the suspected blazes’ source of ignition. PG&E has begun to mount its attack against accusations, claiming that winds were the primary cause of destruction. In addition to this claim, PG&E has stated that through preliminary investigations, PG&E has reason to suspect that a third party electrical company is to blame for one of the fires. While neither of these claims have been upheld by CalFire, there is significant evidence that PG&E has a history of violating California electrical safety laws.

PG&E had an average of 705 works orders finished late every year over a 5 year period. This means that in the recent past, PG&E had 3,527 late work orders. As proven by the 2015 Butte Fire, all it takes is one neglected power line to prove guilt, which means that PG&E has had 3,527 past reasons why they could have been found guilty of potential fires. This is why CalFire is collecting potential evidence, and why PG&E stocks have dropped 22% over the last month. Investors are fearful, authorities are probing, and history will probably repeat itself.

Get a Wildfire Insurance Claim Consultation: (888) 493-1629

The confusion you may be experiencing in trying to understand your policy is normal. Insurance writers create their policies to purposefully confuse the people they insure. These companies do not want to pay out their policies, and they will find every loophole imaginable to do so. However, the wildfire insurance claim attorneys at Arnold & Itkin LLP can hold insurance companies responsible. We know how insurance companies think because we have secured billions of dollars for our clients against thousands of companies who refuse to pay their dues.

If you or a loved one have been affected by the Northern California wildfires and are in need of assistance, pick up the phone and call (888) 493-1629.

Common Questions

  • How Quickly Do I Need to Turn in My Claim?

    If an insurance holder has lost property in a fire, he or she must give a written notice to their insurance company without unnecessary delay. This means that you, as an insurance holder, must notify your insurance company about the losses you sustained as soon as possible. You do not have to know all that you have lost at this point, you just need to tell the company that you have expected losses due to a fire.

    After you inform the insurance company, you only have 60 days to turn in an official “proof of loss” portfolio. This means you will turn in the evidence of all the damage your property sustained from the fire, the list of estimated costs of all your burnt items, and the verified proof that substantiates these claims all within 2 months of the initial incident. So, in short, speed is essential to your claim.

  • What Are the Different Policies That I Could Have?

    A homeowner can potentially have four types of fire insurance coverage. Dwelling coverage insures the house itself. If a wall, roof, and other portions of the actual house structure are damaged in a fire, dwelling coverage should protect it. Other structures coverage insures any structures on a property that are not the house. Structures such as detached garages, workshops, guest homes, etc. should be covered. Personal property coverage insures the actual items in your house, in other structures, and on your property. Loss of use coverage insures additional living expenses you might face due to the fire damage in your home. This should cover hotel expenses if your family’s house is uninhabitable and you must live out of a hotel while waiting for repairs. It will also cover “lost rent” if you had a tenant living in your home when the fire damaged the property and made it uninhabitable.

  • What Kind of Payout Can I Expect for My Home?

    Your home is typically insured at its "Actual Cash Value" (ACV). ACV isn't what you paid for your home but its current value, which depreciates over time, similar to cars. A 10-year-old house's ACV will be less than a 2-year-old one due to depreciation. An insurance payout based on a home's ACV may not cover the rebuilding cost, as newer materials often cost more. For instance, an older computer's sale price won't match the cost of a new one.

    If your home has partial damage, like from a fire, you might qualify for replacement cost coverage, which pays for repairs without factoring in depreciation. So, if you repair a fire-damaged roof, you'd receive the full repair cost, regardless of the roof's age before the fire. This payout principle applies whether your home is 10, 2, or 25 years old. Remember, the coverage applies up to your policy limit. If the ACV or repair costs exceed this limit, the insurance won't cover the excess.

  • Is There Anything an Insurer Must Do in My Claim Process?

    By law, you must meet specific deadlines for insurance filings to get full compensation. Similarly, insurance companies are legally obligated to treat your interests on par with theirs, meaning they should handle your claim as they would their own concerns. If insurance companies prioritize their needs over policyholders', they risk legal consequences. In court, ambiguous insurance terms like “fair” or “reasonable” often favor the policyholder. For instance, if a policy says insurers will extend the filing deadline under "reasonable circumstances," the definition of "reasonable" would need court clarification. Due to such nuances, it's advisable for those in California to not handle fire insurance claims without adequate legal expertise.

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