Tag: Wind Insurance

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.

GuideOne

Mount Pleasant Business Insurance Claim Denial Lawsuit

Our client, a Mt. Pleasant hotel owner and operator, has filed an insurance claim denial suit against GuideOne National Insurance Claims and Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, in The United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas, Texarkana Division. The lawsuit stems from claims the local business filed against its insurance companies for damages sustained in a hail storm, which were not properly paid according to Texas law.

A March 28, 2014 hail storm caused serious damage to the commercial property, including the roof, windows, exterior, interior, ceilings, furnishings, and more. A subsequent October 12, 2014 windstorm further damaged the property. Immediately following each weather event, our client filed its claims pursuant to its GuideOne insurance policy and its Underwriters policy.

GuideOne, a foreign company, assigned James Stafford to handle its insurance adjustment. Underwriters, a foreign company, assigned Adam Brenner to handle its insurance adjustment. The insured contends that no competent consultants or adjusters were assigned to objectively evaluate the damage. The only adjusters assigned to evaluate the insurance claims prepared damages estimates and the insurers agreed to cover the losses. This assertion, however, later turned out to be a misrepresentation.

The complaint alleges that GuideOne, Underwriters, and the individual adjusters wrongfully denied and underpaid our client’s’ claims for building repairs under the policy and that the adjusters wrongly misrepresented that some damages and losses were not covered under the policies when they were. The adjusters and insurers delayed the claims process and the insurance providers refused to issue further payments under the policy, which our client claims has caused them serious financial harm.

Insurance Claim Denial Lawyers Seek Damages For Bad Faith

Our local business owner client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, mostly involving the failure to act in a timely manner to initiate an investigation and to reasonably settlement their claims. The allegations also include that the other parties acted in bad faith by misrepresenting the insurance policy and by making misleading statements about several aspects of the claim. They also allege breach of contract, breach of duty of bad faith and fair dealing, as well as the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA).

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.

Windstorm Damage

Wind Insurance Dispute Filed for Baptist Church

A storm hit Houston, Texas on August 16, 2013, which creased extensive hail and windstorms in the area. One building that suffered significant damage was a Baptist Church. After the insured filed a valid claim for windstorm damage under its property insurance, it was unable to recover what it was due. Due to this failure to timely and appropriately pay the insurance claim, the church has filed suit against Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, Gulf Coast Adjustment Service of Houston, Inc. and its adjusters in Harris County District Court.

The church was badly damaged by hail, including its roof, HVAC, windows, exterior, interior, ceilings, furnishings, and more. After the storm, the church filed a claim under its policy with Underwriters, asking the insurer to cover all damages caused by the storm.

Foreign Surplus Lines Insurance Companies Not Admitted In Texas

Underwriters assigned adjusters, consultants, and agents to the claim that were inadequate and improperly trained to handle this type of property damage claim. Specifically of concern, Underwriters is a foreign surplus lines insurance company that is not admitted in Texas. It assigned Gulf Coast Claims, a Houston insurance adjusting company that falsely advertises itself under the Underwriters name. Gulf Coast Claims then assigned an unqualified adjuster in Florida to assess the Texas church’s damage. The adjuster failed to perform an adequate property investigation, failed to prepare estimates of the wind damage, and ultimately represented that the church had no damage.

Given the failures by Underwriters, Gulf Coast, and their adjuster, the church’s claims were denied, and it was forced to hire its own consultants and representatives to conduct its own assessment of property damages. During this long delay, the church has suffered economically and the structure has had continued physical damage.

As a surplus lines insurer, Underwriters at Lloyds are unregulated by the Texas Department of Insurance and operates with far fewer restrictions than insurers who are compliant with the rules for admitted carriers. In fact, Lloyds writes more commercial insurance premiums than any other insurer in Texas, and alone accounts for nearly one-quarter of all surplus lines insurance premiums written in Texas through 2015.

In its petition, the church alleges various violations of the Texas Insurance Code by all three defendants. It also alleges that the defendants failed to properly explain why they had denied the claim and that they failed to conduct a reasonable investigation into the property damage.

Bad Faith Wind Insurance Denial Claims

The church also alleges breach of contract and bad faith on the parts of all defendants. They also allege significant violations of the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act (DTPA), and Texas fraud laws. The complaint seeks to recover more than $1 million in damages, as well as interest and attorneys’ fees, in addition to punitive damages for bad faith.