Ruin Left in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey
Following the nearly 50 inches of rain dumped in the Houston area by Hurricane Harvey, the city is struggling to get back on its feet. Thousands of Houstonites have been displaced from their homes by Hurricane Harvey, with 50,000 in government-provided temporary housing (and thousands more staying with friends and relatives), and at least 126,000 homes severely damaged. There are more than 100 roads in the area still closed, with traffic signals out and lane restrictions in place for many more.
It is uncertain just how well the concrete and asphalt in the city held up to the floodwaters—one research engineer at the Texas A&M Transportation Institute, believes the Interstates will fare “pretty well,” while lower-volume roads will likely be weakened by Harvey. Essentially, the longer the water remains on the roadways, the greater opportunity it has to seep into the ground, weakening the roads. According to FEMA, Harris County and the cities within the county spent more than $242 million removing storm debris following Hurricane Ike, and it is anticipated that Harvey debris removal will cost much more. In short, it will take Houston residents a while to recover from Harvey—while the damage occurs quickly, the recovery is much, much slower.
Houston Controlled Flooding Property Damage/Destruction
Some noted that on Highway 35, a barbed wire fence had become somewhat of a memorial to Hurricane Harvey’s wrath. Debris from the storm has caught on the fence for miles—mangled pieces of metal, doors from people’s homes, furniture, clothing, trees, and even cars. There were some who thought they had miraculously escaped the devastation of Harvey, as their homes remained more or less untouched. Unfortunately, those residents soon found out their flooding would come later. When the Barker and Addicks reservoirs filled to overflowing, the Army Corp of Engineers made the decision to instigate a “controlled release” of some of that water.
The housing developments in the area were built on land which had formerly been the site of rice farms and cattle ranches. Before the housing developments--chock full of concrete and pavement—were built in these areas, the fields and pastures served as a natural drainage system, however the water being released from the reservoirs after Harvey simply had nowhere to go other than inside the homes of those in the area. A similar release of water from Lake Conroe was done by the San Jacinto River Authority even though authorities admitted “we understand there will be devastating flooding downstream but we don’t have the option to stop releases to avoid the catastrophic consequences.”
Houston Controlled Flooding Injury Lawsuits
In fact, in the case of the Addicks and Barker reservoir water releases at 4,000 cubic feet per second over a 6-10 hour period, many homes which had escaped the floodwaters of Hurricane Harvey, soon found their homes filling up with water and their personal possessions being destroyed. Although this controlled release of water by the Army Corp of Engineers, the city of Houston and the Harris County Flood Control District may have been done with the goal of preventing an uncontrolled downtown flooding event, these actions nevertheless amount to inverse condemnation, and those impacted by these events may be entitled to file a Houston controlled flooding injury lawsuit. Those who decide to file such a claim could benefit from having an experienced Houston controlled flooding injury lawyer by their side, who has a thorough understanding of eminent domain and inverse condemnation laws.
Understanding Eminent Domain and Inverse Condemnation
Essentially, inverse condemnation is a type of eminent domain which amounts to a taking by a governmental entity of damaged and/or destroyed properties, while failing to pay just compensation for those properties as required under the 5th Amendment. Should this occur, property owners are forced to file an inverse condemnation claim in order to be paid fair market value for the “taking” or damaging of their home. Inverse condemnation can include a “taking” of personal property, similar to the decision to flood properties close to the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Any type of action which burdens the property in a way which leaves the owner unable to derive economic use or value from the property can be considered inverse condemnation.
Understanding Bad Faith in an Insurance Claim
In the wake of Hurricane Ike, property damages reached more than $30 billion. Despite the fact that nine years have passed since Hurricane Ike hit the Houston area, there are still repairs which have not been made. Many insurance companies did not make it easy for those hit by Hurricane Ike to collect what they were entitled to—these companies acted in bad faith, forcing homeowners to wait years and years for a settlement. Many of the insurance companies also denied claims altogether by asserting the damages were due to flooding rather than wind. Since the majority of homeowners in the area had no flood insurance, and despite the fact that the flooding and winds occurred concurrently, many legitimate claims were denied after Hurricane Ike.
While it is hoped the same thing will not happen after Hurricane Harvey, property owners should be aware of bad faith insurance practices in order to protect themselves from such actions. Obviously, getting your damaged home repaired is probably at the top of your list. This includes replacing necessary personal items such as clothing, furniture, electronics, appliances and other household goods. You may also need a temporary place to live while the damage to your home is being repaired, and some insurance policies will include this. You may have to live in a hotel, or rent another home, however either option will cost you money that you may not have during this difficult time. Repairing your vehicle may also be close to the top of your list of priorities, particularly if you are dependent on your vehicle to get to and from work, to get your children to and from school, and to run necessary errands.
Insurance companies owe their policyholders the following:
- To adjust your claim properly and promptly—not to delay the claim adjusting process;
- To fully investigate your claim;
- Not to unreasonably deny benefits;
- Not to deliberately underpay a claim;
- Not to refuse to settle in an attempt to pay you a lesser amount;
- Not to deny or delay your claim for an excessive amount of time;
- Not to cancel your policy without clear justification;
- To cooperate with you regarding any correspondence you send, answering such correspondence within a reasonable amount of time, and
- To inform you in writing why your claim is being denied, should that occur.
Any time an insurance company violates any of the laws which protect consumers against bad faith insurance practices, it could be necessary to speak to an experienced Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawyer.
Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawsuit Attorney
The very best way to avoid bad faith insurance practices following Hurricane Harvey is to speak to an experienced Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawyer as soon as possible. Our attorneys will help to ensure your rights are fully protected during this difficult time. Our attorneys will determine whether your insurance provider is clearly violating the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, and, if so, we will take steps to compel your insurance company to properly follow the law. If the Texas Department of Insurance receives numerous complaints about the same insurance company, they may choose to launch a full-blown investigation, leading to sanctions and fines. If you want to make sure your insurance company treats you fairly and is held accountable following Hurricane Harvey, contact our Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawyers as soon as possible.