Written By Chris Dolan and Nicolette Rae Bencito
This week’s question comes from Frederic from San Francisco, CA who asks: My neighbors and I last had power for three days! We rely on PG&E, but they are still making repairs to the power pole that was damaged in the recent storms. What is a reasonable time for them to fix the problem? Can my neighbors and I seek compensation?
Thank you for your question. It can be incredibly frustrating to be without power for this long, and we hope PG&E can make the necessary repairs soon. PG&E can generally be held responsible for damages that result from their serious misconduct or “gross negligence.” Suppose any person, business, or property is damaged because PG&E does something unreasonable or fails to do something they should have been done. In that case, PG&E must reimburse the injured party for reasonable damages.
However, holding PG&E liable for any damages resulting from forces beyond their control would be difficult. These forces include power outages or voltage fluctuations caused by weather conditions like lightning, floods, heavy storms, extreme heat, and strong winds. While it would be challenging to hold PG&E liable for the initial outages that occurred due to the storm, PG&E is responsible for making repairs as soon as it is safe. Any unreasonable delays to making the necessary repairs to restore power could be considered “gross negligence” that would cause PG&E to face impending legal action from the city or other injured parties.
If you are experiencing an outage due to severe storm conditions, you may be eligible for automatic payments through PG&E’s Safety Net Program. The PG&E Safety Net Program compensates residential customers who lose power for at least 48 due to severe storm conditions. This program makes payments in increments of $25, based on the length of a customer’s outage:
- 48-72 hours: $25
- 72-96 hours: $50
- 96-120 hours: $75
- 120 hours or more: $100
Payments are generally issued 45 to 60 days following the storm outage.
If you experience an outage for any other reason, you may be eligible for compensation under PG&E’s Service Guarantees. According to PG&E’s Service Guarantee #7:
“PG&E will restore electric service within 24 hours, unless the cause is absolutely beyond our control, or we will automatically credit your account $30 for each 24-hour period you are without service.”
It is important to note that compensation under the Service Guarantees does not apply when planned service interruptions, serious emergencies, or storm conditions cause outages.
Additionally, if you experience any other losses that you believe PG&E may have caused, you can always file a claim for reimbursement. You can file a claim against PG&E in three ways:
- through PG&E’s claims service,
- through your insurance, or
- through court action.
To submit a claim for compensation through PG&E directly, you can process your claim on an online form through PG&E’s Claims. Filing online is typically the fastest way to process a claim through PG&E, but you can also file through email, fax, or U.S. Mail. The following list serves as a guideline for photos and documentation that may be helpful to support your claim:
- For Property Damage: Detailed repair estimates and invoices or purchase records.
- For Personal Injury: Copy of medical records and receipts.
- For Lost Wages: The amount of time you could not work due to personal injury, verification of lost time from your employer, and payroll stubs showing your hourly or daily pay rate.
- For Lost Revenues: Tax records and bank statements, payroll records, revenue and expense statements, and sales receipts.
- For Miscellaneous Losses: Hotel, restaurant, and car rental receipts.
- For Food Spoilage: An itemized list of the costs and type of spoiled perishable food, with receipts or other documentation.
If you choose to file a claim through your own insurance company, your insurer may be able to reimburse you for your losses without an investigation. Your insurer may even pay you the replacement value for damaged items. Each insurance company has its own claims process, so contact your insurer for more information.
If you file a claim through PG&E or your insurance company, you still reserve the option to file a court action at any time during the claims process, even if PG&E or your insurance company deny your initial claim. If the value of your claim does not exceed $10,000, you can file a small claims action that does not require an attorney. Whether or not you pursue this route, we recommend seeking legal advice and working with an experienced personal injury lawyer to resolve the issue.