By the time Hurricane Harvey’s fury subsided, millions of Texas property owners sustained major losses. Stormy weather dumped over 50 inches of rain in some areas of Houston, causing heavy flooding. Along with the heavy rains there were high winds and multiple tornado reports along South and East Texas.
Property analytics firm CoreLogic has predicted that homes across southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana experienced between $25-37 billion dollars worth of flood damage. Wind damage accounted for another $1-2 billion. Vehicle losses are also high, especially in Houston, where there is a higher car ownership rate than the national average. According to Cox Automotive, Hurricane Harvey damaged between 300,000 to 500,000 vehicles in Houston alone.
It’s a devastating situation that’s only made worse when your insurance company underpays your claim or denies it completely.
What Should Be Covered?
Your standard homeowners insurance policy is supposed to cover wind damage, but losses due to flooding are specifically covered by the National Flood Insurance Program (a part of FEMA). Harvey is expected to generate as many as 50,000 claims for wind damage and two to three times as many for federal flood insurance.
Understanding Your Legal Rights
Many insurance companies will try reduce your rightful claim recovery by blaming the hurricane-related damage on other factors, such as building age, rising water, and/or normal wear and tear. To minimize any payouts, they may do one or more of the following:
- Insist that the damage was preexisting
- Pay less than your property was actually worth
- Misrepresent or even lie about your coverage
- Delay claim payments
Your insurer may try to convince you that they’re processing a large number of claims, so your payment won’t come any time soon. What they’re hoping is that you will not point out the responsibility to pay what you’re entitled to in a timely manner. When you are not fully paid in a timely manner, you may have grounds to sue.
House Bill 1774 and the Changes That Affect You
At the beginning of September 2017, House Bill 1774 came into effect in Texas, reducing the penalties inflicted on insurance companies for intentionally and unfairly underpaying or denying weather-related claims, but not eliminating the liability entirely. Insurers are still required to promptly handle claims in accordance with the Prompt Payment of Claims provisions in the Texas Insurance Code. HB 1774 requires attorneys who represent plaintiffs filing a lawsuit against an insurance company to provide greater detail when submitting a notice of intent to file a lawsuit. In addition, if the insurance company is made to pay damages to the plaintiff, the penalty interest rate has been reduced from 18% to 10%.
Texas property owners pay high premiums every month for insurance coverage to protect assets in the event of a natural disaster like Hurricane Harvey. When insurance companies seek to delay payment or deny coverage, property owners often feel cheated, vulnerable, and angry.
If your insurance company is denying or underpaying your claim, contact Robert Von Dohlen at (713) 443-6730 for a consultation today. We will help you enforce your claim for damages due to hurricane-force winds, rain, and flooding and help you recover compensation for:
- Structural damage
- Roof damage
- Broken windows
- Loss of contents such as furniture, electronics, etc.
- Living expenses while your home is being repaired or rebuilt
We will fight to ensure that you receive the full and fair payment you are entitled to and that the insurer is held accountable for their unreasonable and unconscionable actions.