Tag: Wind Damage

Storm Service Providers

What Policyholders Should Expect from Storm Service Providers

Natural disasters like Hurricane Harvey bring out both the best and the worst. It can be a real puzzle sorting out the good guys from the bad, the helpful from the opportunists, and the experienced from, well, more opportunists. The best thing you can do as a business owner or homeowner is to be informed, do your research, and most importantly, ask questions.

Texas property owners impacted by Hurricane Harvey are going to become familiar with service providers and professionals they never needed or even knew existed before. Here are some of the types of professionals Texans will see in the coming months, and what you need to know.

Independent Adjusters

When you contact your insurance company, they will send out an adjuster to evaluate your damage. It doesn’t matter if your insurance company is State Farm – the largest one out there – or some fly by night offshore file drawer of a company. None of them have enough adjusters to handle all of the claims that will arise out of Hurricane Harvey. So in the coming days, insurance companies will be scrambling to find as many “independent adjusters” as they can. This title – “independent adjuster” – suggests that the adjuster assigned to your claim is independent of the insurance company. But, that isn’t what it means at all – it just means these adjusters are outsourced contractors. That said, some of them are dedicated, conscientious professionals who want to get it right. But others may have had no experience at all as an adjuster before they were thrown into a crash course on adjusting and sent out into the field. We’ve seen all kinds of independent adjusters over the years, ranging from guys with 30 years of catastrophe property damage experience down to 20-year-old kids fresh from working at a Walmart cash register. Too often, the sheer mass of claims after a natural disaster results in unqualified or inexperienced adjusters being given the unfair task of handling claims they aren’t equipped to handle. So here’s the key if you get an incompetent first adjuster: ask for a re-inspection. Most of the time, your insurer will send a second adjuster out, and the further you get from the storm date, the better the adjuster quality seems to get as the incompetent ones melt away.

Public Adjusters

A public adjuster is a professional adjuster licensed under Texas insurance laws, and their role is to represent the insured on an insurance claim. Public adjusters are legally authorized to act as the policyholder’s advocate in recovering benefits due under the insurance contract. Qualified public adjusters have extensive experience inspecting storm damages, preparing estimates of the damage, and working with independent adjusters paid by insurance companies. Public adjusters work on the policyholder’s behalf to ensure your property is completely inspected and all damage is presented to the insurance company.

But beware, in the wake of a natural disaster, many unqualified public adjusters will flock to the area to take advantage of people in a vulnerable time. Texas has a strict licensing program for public adjusters with which all license holders must comply. Do not hesitate to ask for a copy of someone’s Texas license if they offer assistance with your claim – and note that licenses from other states do not make an adjuster licensed in Texas. While it is not a guarantee of competence, you can increase the changes of identifying a qualified public adjuster by working with those who are members of the Texas Association of Public Adjusters (TAPIA) or the National Association of Public Adjusters (NAPIA). There are plenty of good public adjusters who aren’t members of these organizations, but membership in TAPIA or NAPIA is a clear indication the public adjuster is licensed, competent, and experienced. Ask your public adjuster if he or she maintains a membership with one or both of these organizations; if they do not, then ask particularly detailed questions about their training and experience. Additionally, since Texas has strict requirements that govern the terms of a public adjuster’s contract, a licensed member of a legitimate organization is more likely to use a legally compliant contract.

Contractors and Roofers

Pickup trucks around the country are fired up and headed to Texas right now. And there are probably hundreds of newly minted contractors landing on our shores each day. If a supposed contractor shows up with Florida license plates, or has a 954 area code on their phone number, make sure you understand who they are and what their experience has been. Chances are, they are journeyman contractors who travel the country looking for storm repair work. Stay away from these types of contractors. Ask questions.

You should also be wary of any contractor or roofer who offers to work directly with your insurance company on your claim. Contractors can’t legally do that, and they are prohibited from acting as public adjusters, being compensated based on a percentage of any amounts paid under your policy, or even acting as both a contractor and a public adjuster on the same claim. They aren’t allowed to rebate your deductible, and as tempting as it is, don’t go there because it’s illegal. One of the largest roofing contractors in Texas was recently hit hard with an unfavorable ruling for committing the unauthorized practice of public adjusting. Illegitimate contractors will try to skirt the rules, assuming you do not know them. To make matters worse, Texas does not maintain any type of licensing requirements for contractors, so you can’t assume workers who approach you are really contractors just because the logo on their truck says they are.

Legitimate contractors will often work with public adjusters to ensure each professional is performing an authorized activity. As a general matter, to be safe, do not agree to assign any proceeds of your insurance claim to a roofer or other type of contractor.

Attorneys

Hiring an attorney may very well become necessary, but it ought to be your last resort. As frustrating as it may be, the adjusting process needs a chance to work, because there are clear rules on how long it should take, and lawyers should be contacted only when it fails. Your insurance company shouldn’t learn about your claim for the first time in a letter from a lawyer. Anyone who hires a lawyer for bad faith insurance practices during the first days after a natural disaster is probably making a mistake. But let’s drill down and cover some specific problems.

One of the biggest problems we’ve seen in the past involves lawyers who do not typically handle property damage claims suddenly becoming first party insurance experts after a storm. This phenomenon includes automobile accident lawyers, divorce lawyers and the like.

But here’s the best antidote: critical thinking and asking questions. Just ask some detailed questions about the lawyer’s experience and you’ll smoke out the inexperienced ones pretty quickly.

Here’s another warning. Lawyers who show up uninvited and solicit your business either directly or through an intermediary, without express authority from the Texas Bar, are breaking the law and committing both criminal and civil misconduct called barratry. This doesn’t mean lawyers can’t market their services legitimately – they can and should – but uninvited direct solicitation crosses the line and lawyers who do this can be prosecuted. In fact, a relatively new Texas state civil barratry law allows you to sue them if they obtained your representation through improper means.

Remember, you owe it to yourself to be your own advocate and to ask questions. Any type of professional or organization – adjusters, public adjusters, contractors, roofers, lawyers – should be more than willing to answer them and to be transparent about their experience and background.

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.

hurricane harvey

Stay Up To Date On The Latest Hurricane Harvey News

All along the Texas coast, people are preparing for Hurricane Harvey. Gathering supplies, prepping properties, and filling up your gas tank can help you weather the storm, and it’s incredibly important to stay up to date on the latest developments of Hurricane Harvey

Raizner Slania LLP recommends following updates from the Forensic Weather Consultants on both their Facebook page and website as well as the National Hurricane Center at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Oftentimes during natural disasters, misinformation is spread, potentially placing you and your family in even more danger. The Forensic Weather Consultants and the National Hurricane Center are reputable sources Texans can trust regarding the development of Hurricane Harvey.

While Hurricane Harvey is anticipated to make landfall Friday night or Saturday morning, the dangers for much of Texas could last into early next week. As hurricanes reach land, they can produce huge storm surges and high winds. Once a hurricane makes it onto land, the storm has the potential to drop another up to several feet of rain.

Hurricanes become very unpredictable once they make landfall. Residents in the path of the storm need to understand conditions can change very quickly. Continually monitoring weather reports and abiding by all mandatory evacuations, storm warnings, and watches issued by the National Weather Service is the best way to keep you and your family safe.

Safety Tips For The Storm

  1. Stay away from windows. High winds can cause many types of damage. If winds are powerful enough, small objects or even tree branches can be picked up and hurled through windows. For this reason, it is advised that all people avoid windows during storms.
  2. Stock up on water. You can buy bottled water at the grocery store, but it is also advisable to fill up bathtubs, sinks, and pots and pans with water. This will help insure plenty of water for your family in the event of a power or water outage.
  3. Generators need to be in open spaces. Do not operate your generator indoors, even with the door open (this includes inside a garage, too). Generators produce deadly gases and need to be kept in open spaces to allow for proper ventilation.
  4. Extinguish all candles and flames. If you are using candles or other flames in your home or business for light, be sure to extinguish them before going to sleep. Never leave any flame, not matter how small, unattended for even a few minutes.
  5. Bring pets indoors. Make sure all of your pets are kept safely inside your home.
Harris County Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers

Harris County Hotel Owner Files Lawsuit Against Scottsdale Insurance Company

Raizner Slania has filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit on behalf of a local hotel owner against Scottsdale Insurance Company after its wind and hail damage claim was wrongfully denied under Texas law.

January 2016 Wind and Hail Storm

On January 8, 2016, a severe wind and hail storm swept through Harris County, causing significant damage to the roof, interior, and exterior of the plaintiff’s hotel property. Immediately upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim with Scottsdale and asked the cost of repairs be covered pursuant to the policy.

In response to the claim, Scottsdale assigned adjusters, consultants, and agents to plaintiff’s file that were inadequate and improperly trained and that would violate standard insurance practices when directed to do so by Scottsdale.

Specifically, Scottsdale assigned the claim to an adjuster who failed to perform a thorough investigation of the damage. Scottsdale refused to hire qualified experts to appropriately assess the damage. In February 2017, Scottsdale wrongfully underpaid and denied the plaintiff’s claim.

Scottsdale represented to the plaintiff that certain damages were not covered under the policy, when in fact they were; and the insurer continued to deny timely payment to cover the cost of the damages. Because of this, the plaintiff was forced to hire their own consultant to independently evaluate the damages to the property.

The repeated delays of payments subjected the plaintiff to significant economic impact and physical damages. Because of Scottsdale’s delays, denials, and underpayment, the plaintiff has been unable to make necessary repairs to the property, which has resulted in further property damage and additional financial harm from loss of revenue.

Scottsdale Violated The Texas Insurance Code

Our client alleges numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including the failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and the failure to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim.

Harris County Bad Faith Insurance Lawyers

Policyholders deserve to receive their rightful payments under their insurance policies. The experienced Harris County bad faith insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania have helped hotel owners across Houston and throughout Texas get their rightful payments from agencies and insurance companies operating in bad faith. If your insurance company wrongfully delayed or denied your claim, contact us today for a free consultation.

Wind and Hail Damage Lawsuit

Local Funeral Home Files Wind and Hail Damage Lawsuit

Raizner Slania has filed a wind and hail damage lawsuit on behalf of a local funeral home against Ohio Security Insurance Company after its commercial property hail damage claim was wrongfully denied under Texas law.

April 2014 Tarrant and Dallas County Wind and Hail Storm

On April 4, 2014, a wind and hail storm swept through Tarrant County and Dallas County and caused severe damage to the roof, HVAC, exterior, and interior of the property. Immediately upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim with Ohio Security Insurance and asked that the cost of repairs be covered pursuant to the policy.

In response to the claim, Ohio Security Insurance assigned adjusters, consultants, and agents to the plaintiff’s file that were inadequately trained to handle this type of claim. Specifically, the claim was assigned to an adjuster who failed to perform a thorough investigation of the claim. The adjuster performed a substandard inspection of the property and did not prepare any estimates or scopes of damages for the properties and/or failed to provide those items to the plaintiff.

The adjuster failed to hire qualified experts to assess the damage and continually delayed the claims process. Ohio Security Insurance relied solely on the adjuster’s inadequate, incomplete, and unreasonable investigation to determine what amounts, if any, to pay on the claim. As a result, the plaintiff’s claim was grossly underpaid and the plaintiff has been unable to make the necessary repairs to the property. This has caused additional damage to the exterior and interior of the property.

Ohio Security Insurance Acted In Bad Faith

Our client alleges numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including the failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and the failure to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim. Additionally, Ohio Security Insurance misrepresented the insurance policies under which it affords property coverage to plaintiff.

Misrepresentations of Policies

Many insurance companies purposefully misrepresent policies during claims investigations to avoid costly payouts. For policyholders who regularly pay their premiums, this isn’t just dishonest – it’s illegal. If your insurance carrier delayed, denied, or undervalued your claim, the experienced bad faith insurance lawyer at Raizner Slania can help. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.