Tag: Insurance Lawyers

Texas New Insurance Law

Don’t Believe Everything You Read About The New Insurance Law – Especially When It Comes From Lobbyists

Contrary to what Texans for Lawsuit Reform wrote in its press release, the reduction of the penalty interest rate will disincentivize prompt payment during the claims process

Recent changes to Texas insurance law are set to have a considerable impact on Texans affected by Hurricane Harvey. This week, the lobbyist group Texans for Lawsuit Reform (TLR) issued a widely distributed press release concerning the recent changes to Texas insurance law.  In it, they say, “the new law does not affect the claims process.”  They say it “affects only the lawsuits that sometimes follow the claims process.”  They even say, “it does not create a new deadline for action by policyholders.”  There’s quite a bit of confusion about this new insurance law, and to be honest it isn’t very well written, but these statements from TLR aren’t correct.

Less than 1% of claims arising out of a major natural disaster actually result in lawsuits, so contrary to what TLR has distributed, this is very much about the claims process. The better and quicker that process is handled, the less likely it is that the claims process will lead to litigation. The goal of consumer protection laws is to put financial incentives in the right place and avoid litigation. When it comes to insurance, the stronger the penalty for non-compliance, the more likely it is that an insurance company will comply with the law during the claims process so that litigation can be avoided. Reducing the penalty interest rate by nearly 50% disincentives insurance companies to complete and conclude the claims process in a timely and efficient manner. It gives them a financial incentive to hold onto claims payment money longer. It materially affects the promptness with which the claims process is conducted, and it very much matters to Texans.

The part of the new insurance law that everyone is concerned about right now are the amendments to Section 542.060 of the Texas Insurance Code reducing the interest rate from 18% to 10%.  And for Section 542.060, September 1, 2017 is a very important date, because if you notify your insurance company of a claim on or after that date, the rate they must pay if the claim is unlawfully denied is cut nearly in half. This is the case regardless of whether or not a lawsuit is ever filed.

Section 542.060 has been around for a long time, and it has always required the payment of penalty interest on unlawfully delayed insurance claims, regardless of whether a lawsuit is filed.   In fact, our firm has seen many occasions where responsible insurance companies voluntarily complied with this law and paid the 18% interest during the claims process if their first estimate was understated, even in the absence of lawsuit or court order requiring them to do so.

The payment of penalty interest when a lawsuit is filed is treated differently that the ordinary claims process under the law. Under Section 542.060, a recalcitrant insurer must pay penalty interest any time a claim is unlawfully delayed, but they must also pay attorneys’ fees if that delay results in litigation.   This distinction for claims that result in litigation is addressed by a subsection of 542.060, which only requires the payment of attorney’s fees if a lawsuit is filed.

The TLR press release is misleading, because it inaccurately claims that the new insurance law only affects lawsuits and not the ordinary claims process. The reduction in interest materially affects the claims process, because it disincentives insurance companies to act promptly and efficiently. Now they will pay half as much interest if they unlawfully delay a claim during the claims process. At this point, most of us have probably figured out that TLR had a draftsman’s role in House Bill 1774, and they intended its application to the claims process when they designed two different effective date provisions, one for “an action,” and a separate one for “a claim.” Our state lawmakers may be confused about this, but it’s a safe bet that TLR isn’t.

Don’t Trust Everything You Read About The New Insurance Law

So the bottom line is this: If an insurance claim is made before September 1, 2017, then 18% interest applies to the claim if the insurer delays payment.  If the claim is made on or after September 1, 2017, then the new 10% interest rate applies.  And as TLR accurately points out, all of this applies to state law claims, which do not include flood claims made under a National Flood Insurance Program insurance policy. If you have a flood claim under an NFIP policy, your claim is not affected by the new Texas law. But if you have a wind claim or even an excess flood policy issued outside of NFIP, then the prudent course of action is to notify your insurer of your Hurricane Harvey claim before this Friday, September 1, 2017.

After all, there just may be a reason why TLR is suggesting otherwise.

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.

wind and hailstorm

Dallas, Texas Wind and Hailstorm Property Damage Lawsuit

Our client, a local Dallas property owner, filed suit against American Economy Insurance Company and American States Insurance Company for grossly underestimating property damage claims caused by a wind and hailstorm and denying proper payment under Texas law.

May 2011 Texas Wind and Hailstorm

On May 24, 2011, a severe wind and hailstorm swept through Dallas County and caused significant property damage to the plaintiff’s roof systems, HVAC, windows, exterior, interior, ceilings, furnishings, and more. Upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff immediately filed an insurance claim for the damages sustained from wind and hail.

American Economy and American States assigned adjusters, consultants, and agents to assess the damage to the plaintiff’s property that were inadequately and improperly trained to handle this type of claim. The insurers assigned a local adjuster to the case that failed to engage consultants to objectively evaluate the damages to the property. The local adjuster refused to acknowledge obvious damages, and instead prepared two brief estimates of damages that: (1) grossly underestimated the extent and value of damages to the commercial property and (2) represented that there was no compensable hail damage to the properties. As a result, our client’s claim was denied and no payments were issued.

The Insurance Carriers Violated the Texas Insurance Code

Because the insurance carriers wrongfully denied our client’s claim, our client was forced to hire its own consultant to independently evaluate the property damage. The client’s consultant identified substantial damage far beyond what the insurance carriers acknowledged. Despite this, the insurance carriers still refused to pay for the necessary repairs to the property as required under the terms of the insurance policies and under Texas law.

Our client cites violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to attempt to effectuate a prompt, fair and equitable settlement, failure to adopt and implement reasonable standards for prompt investigation of claims, and failure to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim, among others.

Wind and Hailstorm Commercial Property Damage Lawyers

If your commercial insurance carrier has denied, delayed, underpaid, or disputed a wind and hail damage claim, you need an experienced team of commercial property insurance lawyers to help you get the compensation you deserve. The lawyers at Raizner Slania have extensive experience helping policyholders obtain their rightful payments from insurance companies. Contact us today for a free consultation.

hailstorm property damage

Hailstorm Property Damage Lawsuit Filed in Dallas County

Our client filed suit against Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company (Endurance) and Engle Martin & Associates Inc. after its commercial hailstorm property damage claim was underpaid.

October 2014 Dallas County Hailstorm Property Damage

On October 2, 2014, a wind and hailstorm caused significant property damage in Dallas County, Texas including damages to the plaintiff’s roof and interiors. Immediately upon discovering the damages, the plaintiff filed insurance claims under its policy for the damage caused by the storm.

The insurer of the property, Endurance American Specialty Insurance Company, assigned adjusters that were inadequate and improperly trained. Specifically, Endurance assigned the claim to an internal adjuster who is not licensed in the state of Texas. In turn, this adjuster reassigned the claim to Engle Martin & Associates, which again reassigned the claim to its own local adjuster. This adjuster was not equipped to handle this sort of claim and failed to perform a thorough investigation of the property. As a result of the substandard investigation, the plaintiff was paid only a small portion of its commercial property insurance claim, the rest of its claim was denied, and the claim was closed. The plaintiff requested that the damage be re-evaluated, but despite this request for a second look, again its damages were not acknowledged and its claim was denied.

Violation of Texas Insurance Law and Acting in Bad Faith

The insurance carrier failed to acknowledge obvious commercial property damage and underpaid large portions of our client’s claim for repairs under its insurance policy. Because of this, our client was forced to retain an attorney to prosecute its claim for insurance benefits. The insurance carrier continued to delay and/or deny payment for the necessary repairs, which has caused a significant negative economic impact on our client’s business, worry, distress, and continuing economic and physical damage.

Our client cites violations of the Texas Insurance Code including a failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failure to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim, and refusal to pay a claim without a reasonable investigation, among others. Our client alleges that the insurance carrier acted in bad faith and violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Dallas County Bad Faith Insurance Attorneys

If your commercial insurance carrier has acted in bad faith and denied, underpaid, delayed, or disputed your property damage claim, the attorneys at Raizner Slania can help. We have extensive experience helping policyholders obtain their rightful payments from insurance companies. We work on a contingency fee basis, so you don’t owe us anything unless we recover for you financially. Call us today for a free consultation.

Commercial Insurance

Commercial Plaintiff Sues Insurance Provider in Independence, Kansas

Our client, the owner of a multi-tenant office building, filed suit against Seneca Insurance Company after its property damage claims were denied and not properly paid according to Kansas law.

February 2015 Freezing Temperatures Cause Water Damage

On February 5, 2015, our client suffered severe property damage when freezing temperatures caused the boiler system in its commercial structure to fail. Upon realizing the damages, the plaintiff immediately filed an insurance claim under its policy for the water damage caused by the failed boiler.

April 2015 Wind and Hailstorm

On April 20, 2015, a severe windstorm and hailstorm caused property damage to the roof system, HVAC, windows, exterior, interior, ceilings, furnishings, and more. Again, upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff immediately filed another property damage insurance claim.

The insurance carrier assigned agents and adjusters to assess the property damage who were not qualified to handle these types of commercial property claims. Our client asserts that the adjuster performed a haphazard inspection of the property and refused to acknowledge obvious visible damage. Throughout the claims process, the insurance carrier refused to provide answers to questions presented by the insured and also otherwise delayed the process. Because of the inadequate inspection of the property, both commercial insurance property damage claims were denied and no payments were issued.

The Insurance Carrier Acted in Bad Faith

The insurance carrier wrongfully denied our client’s property damage claims for repairs under the insurance policy. Because of this, our client was forced to hire its own consultant, at its own expense, to independently evaluate the property damage. Our client’s consultant identified substantial damage far beyond what the insurance carrier and/or adjusters acknowledged. Despite this, the insurance carrier still refused to pay for necessary repairs to the property as required under the terms of the insurance policy.

Our client asserts that Seneca Insurance breached its contract by refusing to comply with its obligation to pay policy benefits, and breached its duty of good faith and fair dealing by not fairly and in good faith processing its claim and by refusing to properly investigate and effectively denying insurance benefits.

Commercial Insurance Claims Attorneys

If your commercial insurance carrier has underpaid, denied, delayed, or disputed a property damage claim, the experienced insurance litigation attorneys at Raizner Slania can help. We handle all bad faith insurance litigation cases nationwide on a contingency fee basis, meaning you will not pay us anything unless we help you recover on your claim. Please contact us today to discuss your case.

40 Under 40

Amy Hargis: Top 40 Under 40

Texas mass tort and bad faith insurance litigation attorney Amy Hargis has been selected for inclusion in The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 Under 40. Membership is by invitation only and is extended exclusively to those trial lawyers practicing civil plaintiff and/or criminal defense law.  Ms. Hargis was nominated by her peers and selected for inclusion in the category of civil plaintiff law.

After obtaining her Bachelor of Arts in International Studies at Texas A&M University in 2008. Ms. Hargis attended South Texas College of Law where she graduated magna cum laude  in 2011. While in law school, she was a Dean’s Merit Scholar and served both as the Note and Comment Editor for the South Texas Law Review and the Managing Student Editor for the Construction Law Journal. She was active in the advocacy program and earned five CALI Excellence Awards for her academic performance in the classroom.

Active with various professional associations, she serves on the Editorial Board of The Houston Lawyer, a Houston Bar Association publication, and is a member of the Young Alumni Council at South Texas College of Law. Ms. Hargis is also an active member of the American Association For Justice, the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, and the Houston Trial Lawyers Association Women’s Caucus.

The National Trial Lawyers: Top 40 under 40 includes top trial lawyers from each state who are younger than the age of 40.  Invitees have superior qualifications, trial results, and leadership. Selection is based on a multi-phase process that includes peer nominations and third-party research. The group promotes the pursuit of justice for those injured by the negligence of others and public education about the importance of access to courts and the right of trial by jury.

Ms. Hargis handles a nationwide docket of pharmaceutical and medical device cases against some of the largest drug companies in the world, as well as insurance disputes involving commercial properties such as apartment complexes, hotels, office buildings, and churches