'18 Butte Camp Fire: Frequently Asked Questions

Q: I was renting my home and it burned to the ground. Am I entitled to a refund of part of the November rent I paid?

A: This is typically governed by your written lease agreement. In the absence of any lease language about it, the answer is no. A renter must pay the rent up to the time the property is destroyed and not beyond that date. But unless the lease says otherwise, the landlord must refund only the renter’s security deposit, not any rent paid in advance.

Q: Do I have to continue to pay my mortgage?

A: You need to call your lender. After a disaster such as the Camp Fire, the Federal Housing Authority traditionally imposes a 90-day moratorium on foreclosures of FHA-insured loans to allow the homeowner, the lender, and the insurance carrier to work things out. Your lender can tell you if you have an FHA loan and whether they are recognizing the 90-day moratorium.

Q: Can I continue to pay my mortgage and keep all my insurance proceeds so that I can rebuild? I don’t want to have to get a new loan because the rates will be higher.

A: Normally you will not be able to keep the insurance proceeds and continue to pay your mortgage. The lender is typically a “loss payee” under your insurance policy. That means that when all is said and done, the lender will get paid from the insurance proceeds first and you will get whatever is left over. You will need a new loan to rebuild. However, there is no hard and fast rule, and regulators encourage banks to be flexible with their customers after a disaster such as the Camp Fire. According to a letter to banks from the FDIC, ”Extending repayment terms, restructuring existing loans, or easing terms for new loans, if done in a manner consistent with sound banking practices, can contribute to the health of the community and serve the long-term interests of the lending institution.” Again, a good starting point is calling your lender.

Q: I couldn’t get my pet out. I’m heartbroken. Can I hold PG&E responsible?

A: Normally you cannot hold responsible someone who accidentally killed your pet for anything more than the pet’s market value. But when a pet dies in a utility fire, everything is different. In that situation, the law recognizes that the pet can almost be a family member, and the utility must pay the owner enough to fully compensate him for the all the emotional distress the owner suffers as a result of losing the animal.

Q: Is your lawsuit a class action?

A: No. Our case is not a class action. In a class action, you are automatically involved unless you opt out and you have no say in the settlement. Our lawsuit is instead a “mass tort.” In a mass tort, each person’s claim counts as an individual case. You need to hire a lawyer to be represented. While all the cases will be supervised by the same judge, unlike a class action you will get to decide for yourself to accept what PG&E offers in settlement or instead proceed to trial and let a jury decide the amount you should be paid.

Q: How much do I have to pay for you to represent me?

A: You do not pay us any money out of pocket. We will never ask you to send us money. We are paid out of any settlement you receive at the end of the case. If there is no settlement, we absorb all of your lawsuit costs and are paid nothing for our work.

Q: Where will the lawsuits be heard?

A: San Francisco. Our lawyers have tried cases in both Butte County and San Francisco courts, and believe San Francisco courts are better suited for this type of case and that having the cases in San Francisco is to our clients’ benefit. We are entitled to sue PG&E in San Francisco because PG&E’s headquarters are in San Francisco. Upcoming hearings will be scheduled before a San Francisco judge who is yet to be selected. We know the San Francisco judges well because San Francisco is one of our “home courts.”

Q: Is there a time limit to join?

A: You have two years from the date of the fire to hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit. However, all other things being equal, the first claims filed are typically the first claims paid. So there is no benefit in delaying.

Q: Do you represent families whose loved one were killed by PG&E’s negligence?

A: Yes. Lawsuits concerning family members lost due to PG&E’s negligence are handled differently from property loss lawsuits and must be brought as separate lawsuits. We were among the first to sue PG&E for wrongful death in connection with the Camp Fire. We are adding more families’ claims in the order that the families contact us.

Q:  What experience does your team have with death cases against PG&E?

A: Sadly, a lot. We tried our first death case against PG&E more than 20 years ago. More recently, our team sued PG&E for wrongful death as a result of both the Wine Country fires of 2017 and the Butte/Calaveras County wildfire of 2015.

Q: My family member was elderly/disabled when they died in the Camp Fire. Do I have a wrongful death claim against PG&E?

A: The elderly and disabled are most vulnerable in wildfires. This is particularly the case with the Camp Fire because it was so hard to get out and the fire came so quick. Yes, you have a legal claim because PG&E and the fire took from you the little time you had left with your loved one.

Q: Why should I sign up with Northern California Fire Lawyers instead of another law firm?

A: We think that if you do your research you will decide we are the best choice:
• We know what we’re doing because we’ve done this before. No one has more experience suing PG&E in cases like this than we do.
• We’re not from Texas or Los Angeles. We’re all Northern California lawyers and we have an office and lawyers in Chico.
• We are over 30 lawyers strong. Our team is big enough to take PG&E on and has been taking on big corporations for decades.
• We have the financial resources needed to see the cases through to the end.
• Other firms say that they will hold PG&E accountable but have never done so before. They don’t know what it takes. We do.

You can also download a printable copy of ’18 Butte Camp Fire FAQ’s.

Experienced, Award-Winning California Fire Lawyers: Leaders in the 2015 Butte Fire and 2017 California Wildfire Lawsuits

Northern California Fire Lawyers is a team of more than 30 attorneys from a coalition of three Northern California law firms:

Our PG&E and Wildfire Experience

✓No Other Firm Has More Experience Suing PG&E.
Our first case against PG&E was nearly 30 years ago. We know PG&E’s playbook and we use that unique knowledge to benefit our clients.

We have succeeded in trial against PG&E.
Our lead trial lawyer, Mike Danko, is the only lawyer in Northern California to have taken a case of this type all the way through to trial and verdict against PG&E. Since then, PG&E has offered settlements to our clients in many cases during or just before the start of trial. PG&E knows we are ready, willing and able to take a case to trial, and that approach helps us achieve the best results for our clients.

Appointed by judges to lead legal battles against PG&E.
We have been appointed by judges to leadership positions in large-scale cases against PG&E, including the 2017 North Bay Fires cases, the 2015 Butte Fire cases, and the 2010 San Bruno Explosion cases. Judges trust us to represent the best interests of fire & disaster victims.

Meet Our Wildfire Lawyers

Northern California Fire Lawyers is a coalition of prominent Northern California law firms: Corey, Luzaich, de Ghetaldi & Riddle, Danko Meredith, and Gibbs Law Group. Our firms consist of seasoned trial lawyers, leading national personal injury attorneys, and experienced complex litigators. Attorneys on our team have been appointed by California judges to serve in leadership positions in a number of large, coordinated fire and disaster cases. We bring a deep knowledge of the systems and fire-prevention policies of major utility companies and are well-positioned to leverage the hard work from our previous cases to benefit our clients.

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