How Hurricane Harvey Devastated Houston
Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas hard, dumping nearly 50 inches of rain in parts of Houston, and bringing winds of up to 130 mph near Rockport. Texans have already filed more than 100,000 Harvey-related claims on their vehicle insurance policies, and some estimate that number will climb as high as half a million. The financial toll from Harvey continues to rise—it was recently projected to be one of the costliest disasters in U.S. history, with damages possibly even exceeding $100 billion.
Many of those with vehicle damage from Hurricane Harvey may find themselves out of luck—about 15 percent of Texans have no vehicle insurance, and of those 85 percent who do, only about three-fourths of them carry comprehensive coverage which would pay for the damages resulting from Harvey. Even for those who do have vehicle insurance, going to buy a new vehicle may not be as easy as it sounds—about 366,000 new vehicles on dealer lots in the state were damaged by Harvey, with as many as 200,000 of those in Houston alone. As you can see, Harvey has damaged vehicles and homes, as well as keeping many people from returning to their jobs and continuing to make a living. The devastation from Harvey will continue for a very long time to come.
Houston Controlled Flooding Property Damage/Destruction
The two major reservoirs in the city of Houston—the Barker and the Addicks—are meant to drain excess water from the city through the Buffalo Bayou. These two reservoirs are located on either side of I-10 on the west side of Houston. Both the Addicks and the Barker had reached critical levels from the water dumped by Hurricane Harvey by Monday evening, resulting in a decision made by the Army Corp of Engineers to conduct a “controlled release” of water back into the Buffalo Bayou. Unfortunately, this release of water flooded many homes surrounding the reservoirs—homes that until this point had not been flooded by Hurricane Harvey.
When the reservoirs were built, the surrounding areas were wetlands—a place for any overflow of water to go without much damage being done. Since that time housing developments have been built nearly up to the edge of the reservoirs, so when water was deliberately released, these homeowners found themselves in the same position as other Houston residents hit by Hurricane Harvey. In other words, this “controlled release” of water from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs caused widespread Houston controlled flooding property damage/destruction.
Houston Controlled Flooding Injury Lawsuit
Although federal laws allow the Army Corp of Engineers to make this type of decision (and while the ACOE is protected from lawsuits), the city of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District do not have similar immunity from lawsuits. Several lawsuits have already been filed by plaintiffs whose homes were flooded when water was released from the two reservoirs, destroying homes and personal possessions. Plaintiffs in these Houston controlled flooding injury lawsuits are claiming inverse condemnation (unlawful taking of property) as well as nuisance.
These plaintiffs are also claiming the city of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District did not make the necessary preparations on the two reservoirs in anticipation of a serious flood like Hurricane Harvey. The damages being sought by plaintiffs would compensate them for property repairs, replacement costs of personal property, market value diminishment of the property, lost income, emotional distress, legal fees and temporary housing costs.
Understanding Inverse Condemnation
When a city or government entity takes or destroys private property without paying just compensation to the owner—and without following the proper procedure for eminent domain--, then inverse condemnation may have occurred. This “taking” can be temporary, just like the homes which were flooded when water was purposely released from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs.
If you are one of the thousands of people whose homes were flooded after water was released from the reservoirs, you could potentially benefit from speaking to a knowledgeable Houston controlled flooding injury lawyer. If inverse condemnation of your property left you with a flooded home, after you had escaped Hurricane Harvey’s wrath, then a Sullo & Sullo Houston controlled flooding injury lawyer can work on your behalf to ensure you receive just compensation for the damages to your home.
Understanding Bad Faith in an Insurance Claim
If you were not one of those affected by the controlled release of floodwaters from the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, but are now facing filing an insurance claim for the damage to your home and vehicle, then it is important that you understand what bad faith insurance claims encompass. Following Hurricane Ike, many Houston residents found they were forced to wait years and years for a fair settlement, or take a settlement which was much less than the claim was worth. For some, claims were denied, leaving them with a destroyed home and nowhere to go. Possessions were destroyed as well, and since many of these Hurricane Ike victims had nowhere to live, they were also unable to return to their regular jobs, so consequently had no income coming in.
Unfortunately, it is likely there will also be bad faith insurance claims after Hurricane Harvey. You should be aware that:
- Your insurance company is legally obligated to fully investigate your claim.
- Your insurance company is legally obligated to adjust your claim properly, under the conditions of your insurance policy.
- If your insurance company denies your claim, they must inform you in writing why the claim was denied.
- Your insurance company must fully respond to any correspondence from you, including emails, phone calls, texts and written correspondence.
- Your insurance company may not unreasonably deny your claim, delay your claim or cancel your policy without legal justification.
- Your insurance company may not underpay your claim without legal justification.
It is expected that Hurricane Harvey will result in 50,000 or more insurance claims for wind damage, and at least two to three times that many claims for federal flood relief. You are protected from bad faith practices by insurance companies, however having an experienced Hurricane Harvey insurance claim lawyer by your side will almost certainly make the claims process go much more smoothly and will also reduce the likelihood that your insurance company will engage in bad faith practices.
Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claim Lawyer
If your insurance company has clearly violated the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, you may be eligible to file a Houston Hurricane Harvey insurance claim lawsuit. We understand the devastation you are currently facing. We also know that you should not have to deal with an insurance company who does not want to pay you what your claim is worth, particularly since you have faithfully paid your insurance premiums. Having a strong legal advocate in your corner can be beneficial when dealing with insurance companies. If you need to file a complaint with the Texas Department of Insurance, we can help you with that as well. Our goal will be to try and make you whole after the losses you have suffered.