San Bruno victims must now navigate claims process

PG&E workers help evacuees file paper work at an evacuation center in San Bruno, Calif., Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. Fire crews doused the remnants of an enormous blaze and accounted for the residents of dozens of homes Friday after a gas line ruptured and an explosion ripped through in a neighborhood near San Francisco, killing at least six people. (AP photo/Tony Avelar)

September 14, 2010 12:00:00 AM PDT
The many victims of San Bruno Fire must now navigate through what can be a very confusing and intimidating insurance process. Insurance might not cover all their immediate expenses. So that's where PG&E is stepping in, offering to pay out those claims up front -- while also offering to help with larger long term needs.

Sherman Lim talked to his 3-year-old son Jeremy about the explosion that destroyed his grandmother's home. Sherman drove away the house with Jeremy just three minutes before the explosion destroyed her home.

She heard her house shaking and she looked out her window and saw an orange glow and felt the heat and she ran outside," Lim said.

Jeremy's grandma escaped the flames unharmed and now Lim is trying to help her through the claims process. That is where PG&E is stepping in to help.

"What we have in the community we do have representatives who are helping expedite the claims process for those customers that were affected by this terrible tragedy," PG&E spokesperson Nicole Liebelt said.

Lim has seen pictures of grandma's home in ruins. He is concerned PG&E is giving out conflicting information about the claims process.

"I just want PG&E to come up and put something in writing with those forms; is it a onetime claim and do we have two years or do we have one year or do we have three years," Lim said.

"We understand that customers that were affected may have the need for funds upfront and perhaps later as well so we are allowing multiple claims," Liebelt said.

Customers have two years to file claims for injuries and three years for damage to their property.

The claims are separate from $400,000 in pre-paid gift cards PG&E is giving to victims and the $100 million recovery fund the utility has set up for both victims and the community of San Bruno. Residents could receive anywhere from $15,000 to 5$0,000, depending on the damage they suffered.