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There are a number of questions we hear very often regarding the Porter Ranch gas leak and individual case claims. To better help our clients, we hope to cover most of these issues here.
Class Action vs. Mass Tort. What’s the difference?
— A class action is a specialized type of lawsuit, in which a case is filed on behalf of an entire group. The group must share a set of unfortunate circumstances, injuries, and damages. The compensation recovered in a class action is split between all members of the group.
— A mass tort lawsuit allows a single attorney, or group of attorneys, to represent multiple parties individually. The investigation and research into the incident that gave rise to the cause of action is conducted by a single attorney, or group of attorneys, and is shared among all of the individual cases. Compensation recovered in a mass tort is awarded to each plaintiff individually.
What health problems are Porter Ranch residents experiencing?
— Thousands of Porter Ranch residents have reported that they are suffering from health problems because of the gas well blowout. Here is a list of some of the common symptoms residents are experiencing:
- Brain fog / Blackouts
- Ear aches
- Eye irritation and vision problems
- Female health issues (excessive bleeding)
- Increased hair loss in women
- Light headed or dizziness
- Mood changes, such as increased anxiety or irritability
- Nausea or vomiting
- Nose bleeds or scabs in nose
- Rashes/skin issues
- Respiratory problems, such as sneezing, flu-like symptoms, asthma
- Sleep difficulties including lack of sleep, too much sleep, and lethargy
- Teeth and gum problems, with bleeding or swollen gums being the most common issue
Could this be a cause of an exacerbation of my underlying conditions?” Generally, clients with COPD, asthma, emphysema, etc.
— Yes. Each case is unique. Whether you’re a small child with no pre-existing health concerns or an adult with a history of pre-existing health concerns, each case will be litigated accordingly. If you have pre-existing health concerns, please let your attorney or case manager know so that he or she may obtain your medical history. This is critical to litigating your individual case effectively so that you may receive full compensation for all new injuries, as well as for the exacerbation of any pre-existing health issues.
How do I know if my home falls within the affected region?
— That is a very good question. Each case is fact specific. It is better to sign up now to protect your potential rights than to wait. A good rule of thumb is if you’ve smelled the gases, or experienced health issues (even minor), then the value of your home will likely be affected.
Can I still be part of the lawsuit even though I might have to relocate away from Porter Ranch?
Has your firm mapped out the geographical location of the affected areas?
— No. There are no defined geographical areas at this point.
Can we take the gas money without waiving our lawsuit rights?
— Yes. Just make sure that you have your attorney review any documents requiring your signature prior to signing.
Should I go to the doctor/physician?
— Yes. It is critical that you create a paper trail documenting your ailments and physical symptoms. Make sure to explain to the doctor every single symptom you’ve experienced, even if you haven’t experienced it that particular day. For example, if you had a nose bleed on Monday, visit the doctor on Wednesday, but only have a headache on Wednesday, make sure you tell your doctor that you have been experiencing both nose bleeds and headaches.
Do I need to keep a log/journal?
— You do not have to, but we encourage you to do so. You will need to recall details and facts anywhere from 12 to 18 months from now. It will be much easier (and more beneficial to your case) if you can open up your journal and give specific instances of how your life was affected as opposed to vague and general summaries of your experiences.
Does this blowout affect nearby cities/towns?
— Yes. To what extent is presently unknown.
Do you have any one local here that we could meet and speak with?
— With a location in Woodland Hills, we are easily accessible for meetings with our Porter Ranch clients.
SoCalGas is asking us to stay with family, and they will provide them with a W9, is this legal?
— Yes. SoCalGas is doing this for tax purposes. The hotels that are housing relocated Porter Ranch residents must go through a similar process.
Do we have to continue paying our children’s tuition if they are not going to school?
— Please speak directly with your school to discuss this question.
Do we have to keep paying utilities, even though we’ve relocated?
— Unfortunately, yes. Until Governor Brown uses his executive powers to defer and/or suspend utility payments by Porter Ranch residents during this time of crisis, you must still pay your utilities. Keep an eye out for increased utility costs. Porter Ranch residents are reporting a 100% increase in their gas bill since October.
What is going to happen with real estate/property value?
— Based on past experience and what our experts are telling us, you can expect a moderate to severe decline in the value of your property.
What is the timeline?
— That is hard to say. As you can imagine, this situation is very complicated and involves a lot of residents. A typical case in Los Angeles Superior Court lasts anywhere from 18-24 months.
What does signing the retainer mean/do for me?
— It helps protect your right to reimbursement for the following: past/future medical care, diminution on the value of your real estate, business interruption, loss of past/future income/earning capacity, general damages (i.e., past and future pain/suffering, anxiety, depression, PTSD, inconvenience.), incidental expenses as a result of being displaced, etc.
I’ve signed up, now what?
—We need you to continue to document your health symptoms and issues, as well as any inconvenience or stress caused by the gas blowout or relocation. Also, please continue to seek treatment if you are experiencing health effects resulting from the gas leak. Other than that, there’s not much for you to do right now other than focus on your health and being as comfortable as possible in your situation.
My relocation company isn’t calling me back. What do I do?
– It is important to remember that the individual or individuals you are working with to relocate may not necessarily be SoCalGas employees. Most if not all of the individuals assisting in relocation are third-party companies hired by SoCalGas to facilitate relocation. Some people may have smooth relocation transitions and some may have a difficult time. If you are having a difficult time being relocated or if the relocation company is not meeting your immediate needs, please contact the dispute resolution hotline at (877) 238-9555 or visit their site online at http://www2.socalgas.com/news-room/relocation/. We encourage our clients to handle their own relocation efforts as best they can so that the attorneys can focus their time and energy on drafting complaints and strategizing on how to best prosecute the cases at the outset.