Fire victims want money back as PG&E settles with insurers

NAPA, Calif. (KGO) -- Depending on how you measure progress, Northern California's recovery from two years of wildfires started by PG&E has been slow, as in a nail at a time -- or it has been tedious, measured in pages, words and legal litigants.

"How many PGE cases are you working?" we asked plaintiffs' attorney Noreen Evans.

"Thousands."

RELATED: PG&E reaches $11 billion settlement with insurers over Northern California wildfires

She has been working on behalf of fire victims for almost two years, an effort that ramped up after PG&E declared bankruptcy. Her clients have sued PG&E for losses exceeding their insurance payments. Evans views an agreement, on Thursday, in which PG&E would reimburse insurance companies $11 billion for their paid-out claims, as progress.

"I would have advocated that PG&E pay the survivors first," she said.

PG&E's agreement covers 85 percent of insurance payouts for any and all of PGE's roles in fires of the last two years, including the Tubbs Fire, which remains active in the courts. Those $11 billion PG&E pay covers only about half of their losses. None of that money will go to victims like Earl Small, who lost his home to fire in Larkfield Estates.

"We have been through hell and continue to go through hell," he said.

RELATED: PG&E caps wildfire payments at $16.9 billion for individual victims, insurance carriers

Earl finally began rebuilding after 14 months. He received $390,000 in insurance payments for a project now costing $700,000, and is one many, many victims thousands suing PG&E to make up the difference for rebuilding, for contents and for pain and suffering.

"So many people have lost so much and here we are, continuing to lose, continuing to wait."

Evans expect the victims' settlement to exceed the money going to insurance companies.

"It is likely to be much more than $11 billion. Maybe twice as much. Our estimate has always been between $24 and $25 million."

Earl Small says he'll believe that when he has a check in his hand.

"Do you think you'll see all the dollars you lost?" we asked.

"Absolutely not. Absolutely not."

That's two years of pain talking.

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