Hurricane Harvey Hits Houston Hard
Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans many years ago, ironically in the same week as Hurricane Harvey swept across Houston and other Texas cities. While Harvey has passed—with Irma taking its place—the damage continues to mount. Parts of Houston received more than 44 inches of rain in a very short time. As of August 28th, ABC News reported that 6.8 million Texans (1 in 4) had been impacted by Hurricane Harvey. Current estimates place the cost of Hurricane Harvey at between $30 and $60 million, and those in the oil industry have concerns regarding the damage to much of the state’s oil refinery systems. Many homeowners in the area have no flood insurance, and will be returning to their flooded homes to find water, mud, and little else from their lives.
Hurricane Ike—Still Damage to Be Repaired and Lives to Be Rebuilt
In the fall of 2008, Hurricane Ike hit the state of Texas—the first hurricane to hit Texas in 25 years. One hundred ninety-five people lost their lives during Hurricane Ike (74 in Haiti), with property damages reaching more than $30 billion. Although nine years have passed since Hurricane Ike’s devastation, repairs still need to be made. Unfortunately, during the tragic aftermath of Ike, insurance companies did not make it easy for victims of Hurricane Ike. In fact, many insurance companies acted—and are still acting—in bad faith.
This means homeowners were forced to wait years and years for a settlement, and many of those were paid only a fraction of what the claim was worth. In some cases, insurance companies denied claims altogether, by blaming damage on the floods rather than the wind for those with no flood insurance—even though the flooding and winds were concurrent causes of the devastating damage. In the state of Texas, policyholders have two years in which to file a bad faith insurance claim under the statute of limitations.
This means those whose insurance companies failed to treat them ethically, only had two years to seek redress. Consider all the areas you could require your insurance company to act in a fair and just manner:
- Of course, your damaged home is probably at the top of your list, including the contents of your home, such as furniture, clothing, electronics, household goods, etc.
- A temporary place to live while you assess the damage to your home. This could be a hotel, or renting another home while you work on getting the damage to your home repaired. Some insurance policies will provide for this type of living expenses, up to 24 months.
- Repairing your car will also be on your list of repairs, particularly if you depend on your vehicle to go to and from work, or to get your kids to school.
Will the Aftermath of Hurricane Harvey Be Like Ike?
Many of those who lived through Hurricane Ike—and may still be dealing with the damages—are wondering whether Harvey’s aftermath will be the same as far as insurance companies attempting to dodge their legal responsibilities. The best way to avoid this is to speak to an experienced Houston attorney who can ensure your rights in the matter are protected from start to finish. Additionally, claimants can use the following tips to increase the odds that an insurance company won’t act in bad faith:
- Contact your insurance company as quickly as possible.
- Obtain a claim number and write it down.
- When possible, document your losses with photographs and video.
- Keep impeccable records of every cent you spend as far as repairs to secure your home receipts for hotels, and receipts for meals when you are unable to return home.
- Try not to discard damaged items before speaking to your insurance company—in some cases, you may need to show the damaged items to an insurance adjuster. At the very least, take photos of the damaged items.
- Keep a notebook devoted to information related to the damage to your property. Keep the contact information of every person you speak with from the insurance company, including date, time, and what you discussed.
- If your insurance company uses SMS/text alerts to notify you of your claim status, sign up.
Could I Have a Bad Faith Claim for Hurricane Harvey Damage?
While it is too early to say whether there will be as many bad faith insurance claims following Hurricane Harvey as there were after Ike, remember that your insurance company owes you, their policyholder, a duty of good faith and fair dealing. This means they are legally obligated to:
- Adjust your claim properly;
- Fully investigate your claim;
- Cooperate with you regarding answering your letters, texts, emails and phone calls within a reasonable period of time, and
- Inform you in writing why your claim is being denied.
They must NOT do any of the following:
- Delay the claim adjusting process;
- Unreasonably deny benefits;
- Underpay a claim;
- Deny or delay a claim for an excessive amount of time;
- Cancel a policy with no justification, or
- Refuse to settle simply to secure a lower payment.
Unfair Claims Settlement Practices in the Wake of Hurricane Harvey?
The Consumer Federation of America warned consumers that there could be the same types of insurance issues following Hurricane Harvey as there were after Ike. A spokesperson for the CFA noted that families might be forced to dig deep into their pockets, as few in the area carry federal flood insurance, plus insurance companies have been steadily increasing hurricane wind coverage deductibles. The spokesperson further warned that disclosures are often buried in insurance renewal paperwork, meaning consumers may be completely unaware of exactly what their coverage includes.
Hurricane Harvey could result in 50,000 or more claims for homeowner wind damage, and two or three times that many claims for federal flood insurance. The Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act protects consumers from unethical actions by insurance companies (bad faith practices). Should you decide to file a bad faith claim, it is important that you have solid legal representation to help ensure your claim is taken seriously.
Where to Turn When Underpayment of a Claim for Hurricane Harvey Occurs?
If your insurance provider is clearly violating the Unfair Claims Settlement Practices Act, you can work with the state government to enforce the laws, ensuring your insurance company follows those laws. You can also file a complaint with Texas’ insurance department, giving them an opportunity to investigate the issue. If a Texas insurance regulator finds numerous complaints about the same insurance company, they may launch a full-blown investigation, leading to fines and sanctions. Finally, you can file a Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawsuit to try and hold the insurance company accountable.
Why Hire a Houston Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawsuit Attorney?
Our Houston Law Firm places high priority on the outcome of our clients' Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claims. We understand the position you are in, and we believe your insurance company should do what they are legally obligated to do, giving you something in return for all the insurance premiums you have paid over the years. You purchased your insurance based on the agent’s description of how the company would “be there” for you when you needed them.
Now the time has come to file a claim, and you may be shocked if your insurance company has little concern for the trauma you are experiencing. Our Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claim Lawyers believe you deserve an advocate during this difficult time, and we will work hard to earn your trust and help you get through this difficult time.