Category: Wind Damage Insurance Claims

High-velocity winds can severely damage the exterior as well the interior of a property. These property owners deserve a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of their insurance claim in order to start completing repairs; however, insurance companies may impede the process by denying, delaying, or unreasonably disputing the claim. Raizner Slania ensures property owners receive their just compensation to pay for damages that occurred through no fault of their own.


Nueces County Wind Damage Lawyers

Raizner Slania Files Insurance Lawsuit On Behalf of Local Hotel Owner

Raizner Slania has filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit on behalf of a local hotel owner against AmRisc, LLC, Certain Underwriters of Lloyd’s, London, Indian Harbor Insurance Company, QBE Specialty Insurance Company, Steadfast Insurance Company, General Security Indemnity Company of Arizona, United Specialty Insurance Company, Lexington Insurance Company, Princeton Excess and Surplus Lines Company, International Insurance Company of Hannover PLC, and Vericlaim, Inc.

March 2016 Windstorm

On March 25, 2016, a windstorm swept through Nueces County causing substantial damage to the exterior, windows, and interior of the property. Upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim under the policy with the carriers. The plaintiff asked that the cost of repairs be covered pursuant to the policy. The claim was assigned to AmRisc, which in turn assigned the claim to Vericlaim as a third party adjusting firm.

Vericlaim assigned the claim to an internal adjuster who was given decision-making authority over the claim. Verclaim and its internal adjuster conducted an unreasonable and inadequate investigation and denied any wind and water damage to the windows, exterior, or interior of the property.

The internal adjuster ignored or rejected facts, physical indicators, photos, and historical building reports confirming reasonably clear coverage for the windstorm and water damage to the property. Additionally, the internal adjuster assigned unqualified and biased consultants to the claim and failed to do his own investigation of the damages.

The carriers relied on Vericlaim and its internal adjuster’s incomplete investigation to make coverage decisions under the policy and determine what amounts, if any, to pay on the claim. The plaintiff was forced to hire its own representative and demand re-inspections and re-evaluations of the obvious damages to the property that the carriers ignored.

Violations of the Texas Insurance Code

Our clients cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and refusing to pay a claim without conducting a reasonable investigation. Our client also alleges the carriers violated the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA).

Nueces County Wind Damage Lawyers

If you pay your premium, you deserve coverage under your insurance policy. Many insurance companies are less than honest when paying out claims, but property owners can make sure they get their full coverage by calling the Nueces County wind damage lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP. Contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Lawmakers from Hurricane Hit Communities Enabled and Voted for the Insurance Bill

Texas Lawmakers From Some of the Hardest Hit Communities Voted For House Bill 1774

As the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey continues to worsen in the heavily impacted areas, local heroes have emerged.  The long list of first responders, civic leaders, and volunteers include Aransas County Emergency Management, Texas Task Forces for Search and Rescue, numerous departments of public safety (DPS), and scores of local fire and police departments. Thousands of local citizens have donated boats and time to perform impromptu rescue services and over 3,000 local search and rescue operations have been completed.  True leadership is emerging – Constables are riding along with their men and women and personally carrying out these rescue missions.  Even Houston Texans star J.J. Watt has waded in, personally donating $100,000.00 and setting up a donation website.

While we celebrate these first responders and heroes in our communities, we also need to be mindful of how poor leadership can have devastating impacts on damaged communities, and there are glaring examples of that as well.

The powerful, foreign insurance lobby used local Texas legislators, lobbyists, and downtown lawyers to pass House Bill 1774, which creates new challenges for Texas families, small businesses, churches, and property owners.  This part could not be made up – the law takes effect this Friday, September 1, 2017.  The insurance companies and financial institutions behind this damaging new law are based far away from Texas and its impacted communities. Many are based on Wall Street, in Massachusetts, and as distant as London, Zurich, and Tokyo.  But these foreign insurance carriers could not pass the laws themselves, they needed local Texas enablers willing to push the legislation forward, putting foreign interests above the well-being of Texans and our communities.

Galveston, Dickinson, League City, and other local communities fighting through this natural disaster have their local Representative, Greg Bonnen, to thank if their insurance carriers do not fully and promptly pay their storm claims.  Bonnen authored and pushed this anti-Texan legislation through. Harvey-impacted citizens in Matagorda, Lake Jackson, Angleton, and Brazoria can ask Dennis Bonnen why he sponsored House Bill 1774.  Look to see whether your own local Representative sponsored this legislation, but be prepared to be disappointed – there were over 65 Texas sponsors.

Rockport and Corpus Christi remain devastated by this Category 4 Hurricane, and what benefit to Texans could Corpus Christi and Rockport State Representative Geanie Morrison have possibly identified when she co-sponsored this insurance bill, making it much harder for her own constituents to hold an insurance company accountable for unlawful behavior. Those in West Houston should closely analyze whose interests Representative Dwayne Bohac had in mind when he sponsored the insurers’ windstorm bill. In Friendswood, Texas Senator Larry Taylor carried the water for the conglomerate foreign insurance carriers as he sponsored the Senate version of the bill.  Houston Senator Paul Bettencourt did the same.  Numerous other Texas State Representatives and State Senators failed to stand up to the out-of-state insurance lobby.  Their communications teams will likely laud their civic participation in helping clean up after Hurricane Harvey, despite their detrimental work authoring, sponsoring, and voting for House Bill 1774 instead of look after the property rights of Texas families and businesses.

Texas Lawmakers Picked Big Foreign Insurers’ Money Over Texans’ Property Rights

As citizen-heroes continue to pour in to help their neighbors all along southeast Texas, it is important to pay tribute to what makes Texas truly great – courage, even in adverse times, and a willingness to fight for what is right.   It is also important to identify what Texas legislators voted to benefit foreign insurance and financial institution interests, rather than their own neighbors, friends, and family members.

Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claims

Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claims Misinformation

There is a quite a bit of incorrect information floating around about Hurricane Harvey and notice of an insurance claim, some of it propagated by pseudo first party insurance law experts, or honestly, lawyers who don’t know what they are talking about. Homeowners just trying to help are jumping into the fray, and repeating some of this incorrect information. There’s particular confusion about what the impact of notice on or after September 1, 2017 will be, and even some confusion about the types of policies the new law applies to. Let’s clean some of this up, because the notice requirements differ based on the type of policy. And next to ensuring the safety of your family and friends and protecting your property, nothing is more important right now than understanding the logistics of how and when you should notify your insurance company of a claim.

The new Texas insurance law applies to wind claims, not flood claims. The differences are discussed in more detail below, but here’s the key takeaway: Policies that cover wind claims are governed by state law, so the new rules apply to wind claims. Policies that cover flood claims are governed by federal law and are part of the National Flood Insurance Program, which in turn is part of FEMA, so the new Texas rules do not apply to flood claims.

The impact of notice on or after September 1, 2017 only affects the interest rate on unlawfully delayed claims: Here’s where people are getting the most confused. The new law goes into effect on September 1, 2017 in all its glory. There’s nothing you can do to suspend its application. It applies to any lawsuit filed after that date – which means the new Texas insurance law will impact every lawsuit arising out of Hurricane Harvey. There is one, and only one exception to this. If you file your claim with the insurer before September 1, 2017, then the existing interest rate of 18%, and not the new rate of 10%, applies to unlawfully delayed claims. The information circulating that suggests notice prior to September 1, 2017 can suspend application of the new law in its entirety is just flat wrong. Like it or not, the new law will apply to virtually every single Hurricane Harvey claim. Notice before September 1, 2017 only affects the interest rate, but that’s a pretty big deal.

Why the 18% interest rate matters: Having handled many hundreds of lawsuits arising out of unlawfully handled Hurricane Ike claims, and literally thousands of first party insurance cases over a 25 year period, here’s what I know. The largest stockholders of most of the major insurance companies are massive asset managers like Vanguard, BlackRock, and State Street. They control trillions of dollars in assets, and have more money than many states or countries. And that means you can’t hurt them. You can’t teach them any lessons. The only thing that matters to them is the math. That’s why the interest rate is so important. At an 18% interest rate, an unlawfully delayed claim payment will cost a recalcitrant insurer an additional 50% of the value of the claim over two years, and after four years, they must pay twice the value of the claim. But at 10% interest, they can delay payment for a full ten years before the interest penalty doubles the value of the claim. Time is money, the insurance industry knows it, and the Texas legislature just cut the penalty for insurers who wrongfully delay property damage insurance claims by 45%. Of all the ways in which lawmakers betrayed the communities they represent, including some from the areas most affected by Hurricane Harvey, this windfall to the insurance industry hurts the most.

Let’s go over some specifics about providing notice after Hurricane Harvey:

Notice of a flood claim: In the most general terms, a flood insurance policy covers water rising up from the ground and seeping into a building or home. Much of the Houston area experienced flood damage. Flood policies are usually written through insurance companies, but they are part of the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which in turn is part of FEMA. Not everyone has flood insurance. If you are in certain flood prone areas, a mortgage company will require flood insurance. But if you aren’t in a flood prone area, then flood insurance is completely voluntary and you are limited in what you can buy. You should give your flood insurance company notice of the claim right away, and you have to complete a proof of loss within 60 days of the loss. FEMA often extends the proof of loss date for major natural disasters, but you can’t count on that occurring. Our friends at United Policyholders have posted some valuable information about the flood claims process. A flood claim written on an NFIP backed policy is not subject to the September 1, 2017 time considerations under the new Texas law.

Notice of a wind claim: A standard homeowner’s insurance policy or commercial insurance policy will cover may different perils, including wind damage from hurricanes and tropical storms. If water comes into the home or building through a “storm created opening,” such as roof or window damage, then this type of policy should cover the loss. A wind loss claim is subject to the September 1, 2017 time considerations under the new Texas law. To avoid the 45% reduction in the interest rate, you must get notice of a wind claim loss on file with your insurance company before this Friday, September 1, 2017. And to avoid any miscommunications, it’s best to do this in writing.

What happens if there is both wind and flood damage, or you aren’t sure about the cause?: That’s simple. Give notice of both claims. Sometimes, it takes an engineer or other specialist to determine the cause of a loss, that is, whether it’s from wind, flood, or even non-covered items like wear and tear or manufacturing defects. If you don’t know, that’s ok, but be prudent and provide notice to both your flood insurer and your wind insurer.

Why did this change in the law happen?: Now that’s a great question. There are a handful of reasons, and more than a handful of culprits. We’ll address some of the why’s and who’s in future blog posts, and there’s blame to go around, but here’s some food for thought right now. Some of the biggest proponents of this new law, it’s author and sponsors, the people that overreached and overcorrected a perceived problem and helped the insurance industry grab and take liberties with Texas, some of these scoundrels who betrayed their communities, their friends, their family members, the same ones who are boasting of their efforts on social media right now, some of these state representatives and senators come from districts heavily impacted by Hurricane Harvey. We’ll point them out shortly.

Brazoria County Windstorm

Brazoria County Windstorm Lawsuit

Our client, a local church, was forced to file a lawsuit against Mid-Century Insurance Company after its commercial property insurance claim was wrongfully denied under Texas law.

January 2015 Windstorm

On January 22, 2015, a windstorm swept across Brazoria County and caused substantial damage to our client’s property. As a result, the roof, exteriors, and interiors of the property suffered damage. Upon finding the damage, our client immediately filed a commercial property insurance claim with Mid-Century to compensate for the damages.

In response to the claim, Mid-Century assigned representatives, adjusters, consultants, and agents to the plaintiff’s file who were inadequately and improperly trained. Specifically, Mid-Century hired a local claims representative who failed to perform a thorough investigation of the claim and refused to acknowledge all of the damages to the property in his report, despite being shown the obvious damages.

Additionally, the local claims representative retained an unlicensed adjuster who is not registered with the Texas Department of Insurance to prepare estimates. Due to the claim representative’s haphazard inspection and the local adjuster’s unlicensed estimates, the plaintiff’s commercial property insurance claim was grossly undervalued. Mid-Century continues to deny payment on the damages they it did accept, which has caused the plaintiff economic impact, worry, distress, and continuing physical damage to the property.

The Insurance Carrier Violated the Texas Insurance Code

Because Mid-Century grossly underpaid our client’s claim, our client was forced to retain an attorney to file a lawsuit for insurance benefits. Our client sites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failure to implement reasonable standards for the investigation of a claim, and delayed payment of a claim, among others.

Houston Windstorm Damage Attorneys

If your commercial insurance carrier has denied, delayed, or disputed your windstorm damage insurance claim, the experienced Houston windstorm damage attorneys at Raizner Slania can help. At Raizner Slania, our experienced property damage lawyers have helped clients throughout the United States whose commercial properties were damaged by violent windstorms. Our consultations are free, and you owe us nothing unless we help you obtain compensation. Contact us today to see how we can help.

Corruption Inside Commercial Property Insurance

Wind Damage After Houston February 2016 Windstorm

If you live and/or work in Houston, you might have experienced wind damage from the February 23rd windstorm. The storm knocked out electricity for over 150,000 residents, uprooted trees, and caused severe damage. Not unlike this particular storm, half of all severe weather reports concern damaging winds, so it’s important to understand what types of damage your business might sustain from wind damage and how to file a claim.

Types of Wind Damage

Wind can easily pick up small pieces of debris and hurl them at nearby buildings. This can cause broken windows, damage to the exterior walls, and roof damage. Trees, branches, and power lines can be uprooted and broken, causing them to land on nearby buildings. Damage stemming from flying debris impact can range from small dents or fractures to complete holes in a roof. Roof damage can also be caused by the wind itself. Wind can easily blow shingles or tiles off a roof, it can cause hidden damage from wind lift destroying or loosening fasteners in the roof system, and wind can even tear off the roof entirely.

Preparing for a Windstorm

Always pay attention to the weather in your area. If the forecast predicts a windstorm is headed your way, and it is safe to do so, clear the area around your business of any small to medium sized objects like potted plants or chairs to ensure they are not picked up by the windstorm and thrown into your property. Also make sure the windows and doors are securely locked. Have a good maintenance program for your roof and building, and conduct regular inspections and any needed repairs.

After the Storm

If, despite your best efforts, your building suffers wind damage, you might be unsure how to proceed. You should assess the damage to your property by retaining a professional to inspect it. While some damage is obvious, like a tree falling on your roof, some damage might be subtler, like missing shingles or a compromised flat commercial roof. Sometimes a policyholder won’t even realize damage has occurred until months later, when new leaks become noticeable. Immediately report your wind damage claim to your insurance carrier, and it will send an adjuster to inspect the damage.

Houston Windstorm Damage Claims Attorneys

In many cases, windstorm insurance companies violate contracts with policyholders when they deny or delay valid wind damage insurance claims. Unfair denials, extreme delays, and major under-valuations can constitute insurance bad faith, enabling the recovery of other additional damages that you suffered because of bad faith conduct. If you have had your windstorm damage claims denied, delayed, or underpaid, the attorneys at Raizner Slania can help you get the compensation you deserve.

Sources:
http://www.nssl.noaa.gov/education/svrwx101/wind/
http://www.srh.noaa.gov/graphicast.php?site=hgx&gc=1

London

McLennan County Hotel Damage Lawsuit

Our client, a limited partnership investment company and commercial property owner, has filed suit against Liberty Mutual, a third-party adjusting firm, Engle, Martin & Associates, Inc., and its adjuster in McLennan County District Court. Our client was forced to file this lawsuit after its insurance claims for damages to its local hotel property sustained in wind and hailstorms were wrongfully denied and underpaid.

Hotel Damage Lawsuit Facts

According to the Hotel Damage Lawsuit complaint, there were severe wind and hailstorms on October 4, 2104, which caused serious damage to the hotel, including the roofs, HVAC, exteriors, interiors, and more. Right after the storm, our client filed a claim under its policy with Liberty Mutual Insurance.

Liberty, a foreign insurer, assigned Engle, Martin & Associates, Inc., a Georgia company, to handle the insurance adjustment, and they, in turn assigned an individual adjuster. Our client alleges that the adjuster failed to perform a thorough investigation of the claim, performed substandard inspections of the property, and prepared a damage estimate that grossly undervalued the destruction of the property. The adjuster also said that the damages were not in fact caused by the hailstorm and windstorm, but instead resulted from prior conditions and wear and tear.

The complaint alleges that Liberty Mutual Insurance, Engle Martin, and the individual adjuster wrongfully denied and underpaid our client’s hotel property damage claims under the policy. Plaintiff was not fully paid under the insurance policy; therefore, it hired its own consultant to independently evaluate the property damage. Plaintiff’s consultant identified substantial damage far beyond that the adjuster estimated. Liberty Mutual still refused to pay. This has caused additional damages to the property, including but not limited to further interior problems and roof damage.

Our client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, a failure to timely commence investigation of the claim, a claim for statutory interest and attorneys’ fees, breach of contract, breach of duty of bad faith and fair dealing, a claim for punitive damages for bad faith, violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA), and fraud. In all, our client is asking for in excess of $1 million in damages for their losses, as well as interest and attorneys’ fees.

Hotel Property Damage Claim Lawyers

The excuses insurance companies like Liberty Mutual give for refusing payment are often the same. An insurance company may try to avoid payment or try to limit its payments. Insurance policies are meant to provide property owners coverage and protection when disaster strikes, but insurance providers do not always provide this security when presented with a claim. Our experienced insurance litigation team has handled commercial property damage claims across the country. We are here to help.