Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claim

Houston Is About To Get $1 Billion In FEMA Funding, But It’s Not Nearly Enough

It’s been nearly ten months since Hurricane Harvey devastated Texas, but complete recovery is still a long way away. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has promised Houston recovery funds, but according to estimates the amount won’t be anywhere near enough.

The city of Houston released an action plan and summary last week that detailed exactly how the city will spend over $1 billion in FEMA long-term housing aid. Although $1 billion is by no means a meager sum, according to FEMA’s own estimates, this represents less than one-third of what Houston still needs to recover. According to the City of Houston, even after receiving $1 billion of FEMA funds, the city will still have an “unmet housing need” of approximately $2.3 billion.

As staggering as an additional $2.3 billion is, many argue that estimate severely underestimates the needs of displaced Houstonians. To better gauge where Hurricane Harvey victims are in the recovery process, the General Land Office and researchers at the University of Texas at Austin are extensively surveying counties declared disaster areas. Researchers want to know whether victims are still displaced and exactly how much damage remains to be fixed in their homes.

While FEMA helps provide immediate and short-term housing options for victims displaced by natural disasters, there are far fewer long-term options. Rebuilding homes and businesses could take years, and many victims can feel forgotten and hopeless as news coverage and community support slowly fades.

Insurance Companies Slowing Down Recovery

Some Houstonians were fortunate enough to have property insurance to cover the damage wrought by Hurricane Harvey. Unfortunately, surplus lines insurers dominate the Texas commercial property insurance market, and these carriers are in no hurry to pay out on claims. A surplus lines insurer is not really an insurance company – it’s more like a file cabinet. Insurers enter into insurance contracts with foreign entities not licensed to operate in Texas. These foreign entities don’t have offices in the state or often in the entire country. They collect insurance premiums, but when it comes time to process and handle claims, there’s no one to do it. These foreign entities then rely on third party claims adjusters who are incentivized to minimize the value of insurance claims as much as possible. In the end, the policyholders are left hung out to dry with grossly underpaid or downright denied claims.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claim

Although state and federal agencies are still struggling to understand the full extent of the impact Harvey had on the city, Houstonians understand it all to well. Many of our homes remain uninhabitable and businesses have yet to reopen their doors. Raizner Slania LLP is a local Houston law firm representing Hurricane Harvey victims in a wide array of insurance claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your legal options.

Commercial Property Hail Damage Lawyers

Hailstorm Devastates DFW Area

For most people, last Wednesday, June 6th was pretty unremarkable. Unfortunately for the Dallas-Fort Worth area, the early morning was marked by a catastrophic hailstorm. Many places in the Dallas-Fort Worth area and North Texas suffered hail damage, including the cities of Coppell, Carrollton, Arlington, Irving, Frisco, and Farmers Branch.

The storm caused widespread damage and turned severe just after midnight. At 12:30 a.m., the National Weather Service released warnings for portions of Denton and Collin Counties. The storm continued to move southwest, moving through the Dallas-Fort Worth area dumping large chunks of hail along the way. Early Wednesday morning, the National Weather Service recorded wind gusts at DFW airport at 59 miles per hour.

The reports of hail size varied from 1.5 to 2 inches in diameter in places like southeast Arlington to softball-sized hail in parts of Coppell and Carrollton. For property owners, even small pieces of hail can cause serious damage. Hail can damage roofs, creating openings for rainfall that damage interiors. Hail can also damage other building components like HVAC systems, which can require costly repairs.

Filing A Commercial Property Hail Damage Claim

While most commercial property owners have insurance policies to protect against hail damage, it’s important to understand how insurance companies might try to minimize paying out on claims. Storms like the one that caused widespread damage in the DFW area cost insurance companies millions. To avoid paying out, insurance companies might use a variety of bad faith tactics. Oftentimes insurance companies will claim the damage to a property is just regular wear and tear or due to inadequate maintenance. Other times insurance companies will misrepresent the terms of their policies, claiming certain hail damage isn’t covered when in fact it is. For commercial property owners, talking to an experienced bad faith insurance lawyer can help make sure you get what you are rightfully entitled to under your policy.

Commercial Property Hail Damage Lawyers

When policyholders regularly pay their insurance premiums, they deserve full coverage under their policies. At Raizner Slania LLP, we have extensive experience taking on large insurance companies and obtaining successful outcomes for our clients. Call one of our commercial property hail damage lawyers today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

First NCAA Concussion Lawsuit

First NCAA Concussion Lawsuit Goes To Trial

For decades, football has been one of America’s most watched sports. Every year, thousands of student athletes help universities across the country earn millions of dollars in revenue from college football games. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) and its member schools continue to make profits off of student athletes, too often with limited regard for the long term impact of concussion injuries. Studies showing the long-term effects of concussions sustained while playing football have existed for decades. Despite this, the NCAA did not adopt appropriate protocols that would have reduced the brain damage caused during gameplay.

For one family, justice may be soon at hand as the first NCAA concussion lawsuit begins on Monday, June 11, 2018 in a Dallas courtroom.

Greg Ploetz played football at the University of Texas at Austin (UT) in 1968, 1969, and 1971. Unfortunately, the concussions Mr. Ploetz sustained while playing for UT caused him to suffer from a variety of neurological conditions later in his life. Mr. Ploetz’s wife described the numerous health problems he suffered throughout his life, saying he “became apathetic, disinhibited, exhibited compulsive behaviors, and his personal hygiene began to decline. He experienced paranoia and confusion, was psychiatrically hospitalized, and was in and out of respite homes due to aggressive behaviors.”

Mr. Ploetz passed away in 2015, and neurologists at Boston University posthumously diagnosed him with Stage IV Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy or CTE. Stage IV is the most advanced and severe version of the disease. CTE is a progressive degenerative disease found in the brain that is caused by repeated head trauma. When the brain experiences repeated trauma, it builds up a type of protein called Tau (T-proteins) that slowly kills brain cells over time. T-proteins will continue to kill brain cells even once the repeated trauma has discontinued, and symptoms of CTE often occur months or years after the trauma has ended. Unfortunately, Mr. Ploetz isn’t the only football player to suffer from CTE. Researchers from Boston University found that 91 percent of college football players suffered from CTE.

The NCAA Had A Responsibility To Protect Student Athletes

As the governing body of collegiate sports, the NCAA had a responsibility to look after the health and wellbeing of its athletes. Tragically, the NCAA put profits before its players by failing to educate students on the long-term side effects of concussions and failing to adopt protocols and provide medical treatment that could have lessened brain damage and other side effects.

NCAA Football Players Deserve Justice

Former NCAA football players all around the country are suffering from devastating and degenerative conditions from concussions sustained during play. NCAA football players deserve justice for the NCAA’s gross failure to protect them. If you or someone you love played collegiate football and suffered adverse health conditions as a result, contact Raizner Slania LLP immediately. We are representing NCAA football players and helping them get compensation for their injuries. Call us today for a free consultation to learn about your legal options.

hurricane Harvey insurance lawsuit

Commercial Building Owner Files Hurricane Harvey Insurance Lawsuit Against Underwriters at Lloyd’s

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a Harris County commercial building owner against Underwriters at Lloyd’s, London after its Hurricane Harvey Insurance claim was wrongfully denied under Texas law.

Hurricane Harvey Drops Unprecedented Rainfall

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall off the Texas coast in late August 2017, few anticipated how much rain the slow moving storm would drop across Texas. Hurricane Harvey’s extreme winds and rain caused substantial damage to our client’s commercial property. Wind compromised sizable portions of the property’s roof, which caused water intrusion and interior damage. Overall, the roof, insulation, ceilings, interiors, and electrical components of the structure were damaged.

Despite substantial damage, the plaintiff felt fortunate to have an insurance policy that would cover the cost of repairs. Immediately after the storm, the plaintiff promptly filed a claim with Underwriters, alerting them to the extensive damages.

Unfortunately, Underwriters’ claims-handling process resulted in a wrongful denial that omitted a wealth of facts, physical evidence, obvious wind damage, and meteorological data from Hurricane Harvey supporting the plaintiff’s claim. Underwriters unreasonably pinned the loss on anything but the wind, an action designed to save the insurer hundreds of thousands of dollars in damages to the property and the business.

The plaintiff hired its own public adjuster to estimate repair costs; however, Underwriters and its preferred vendor, Vericlaim, Inc., ignored the estimates provided by the public adjuster. Although Underwriters has, to date, provided no clear documentation of its inspection or findings, it denied the claim in full on December 26, 2017.

In its Denial Letter, Underwriters quoted the opinions of an engineer it claims to have hired to support its conclusions. If any estimates were in fact prepared, none of those documents or explanations were provided to the plaintiff. Instead, Underwriters simply denied the claim and closed the file.

Underwriters at Lloyd’s Violated The Texas Insurance Code

Our client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failure to promptly provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim, and refusal to pay the claim without conducting a reasonable investigation.

Hurricane Harvey Lawyers

Texans experienced catastrophic losses in the wake of Hurricane Harvey. As if the physical damage wasn’t severe enough, Texans are now facing dishonest insurance companies that are wrongfully denying claims and preventing Texans from rebuilding. If you are struggling with your insurance company with regard to a Hurricane Harvey claim, don’t wait to contact us to learn your rights.

Food From the Bar

Raizner Slania LLP Helps Gather Food For Houston Food Bank During Food From the Bar

This year Raizner Slania LLP was proud to participate in the Food From the Bar program. Food From the Bar is a month long friendly competition among local law firms and corporate legal departments to raise money, gather food, and donate time to the Houston Food Bank. Because of the devastation of Hurricane Harvey last fall, food from the Houston Food Bank has been even more needed for thousands of Houstonians. Since the inception of the Food From the Bar program in 2016, one of Raizner Slania’s attorneys, Ben Wickert has served on the steering committee. We are very proud of Ben’s involvement, and the firm is honored to help serve our community.

This year marked the 3rd Annual Food From the Bar program, and the legal community of Houston did not disappoint! Law firms and lawyers from across the city came together to help the Houston Food Bank in its mission to feed Houstonians and reduce food waste.

Raizner Slania worked to generate the equivalent of 5,500 meals during the Food From the Bar program, earning the firm a Bronze Partner achievement award. Raizner Slania participated with 37 other legal organizations; and, in total the program raised $200,519, collected 16,196 pounds of food, and donated 2,475 volunteer hours, which generated the equivalent of 763,554 meals for our community.

About The Houston Food Bank

Everything’s bigger in Texas, and the Houston Food Bank is no exception! The Houston Food Bank is the largest food bank in the country, and in 2015 it was nationally recognized as Feeding America’s Food Bank of the Year. The Houston Food Bank distributes 83 million nutritious meals through its network of 600 food pantries, soup kitchens, shelters, and other hunger relief charities in southeast Texas, feeding 800,000 individuals each year.

Giving Back To Houston

The entire legal team at Raizner Slania was honored to have participated in Food From the Bar and we look forward to participating again next year. If you want to know more about the Food From the Bar program, feel free reach out to Ben Wickert or you can contact us online.

Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Flooding

Hurricane Harvey Upstream and Downstream Reservoir Claims Move Forward To Trial

Raizner Slania LLP is representing homeowners who were flooded as a result of the Addicks and Barker reservoir releases in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey. Both homes upstream and downstream of the reservoirs suffered catastrophic flood damage as a direct result of the actions of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. There are a number of lawsuits against the Army Corps of Engineers to recover damages caused to properties; and, while the federal government has tried to have the lawsuits dismissed, judges overseeing the litigation have kept the lawsuits moving forward.

Federal Government Files For Dismissal

In February, the government filed motions to dismiss in both the Downstream and Upstream sub-docket claims regarding flooding caused by the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. The government essentially made three arguments for dismissal:

  1. There was not a constitutional taking of land because the government was “merely acting to mitigate or minimize an inevitable harm to the public” (both downstream and upstream);
  2. Plaintiffs lack a protected property interest in the property purportedly taken. In the downstream case, there is no right to keep land downstream of a flood-control dam free from floodwaters during an extreme storm; and, in the upstream case, there is no right to keep one’s land free from waters backing up from a flood control dam; and
  3. The court does not have jurisdiction over the claims because the case should be brought as a tort, not as a Fifth Amendment takings case (both downstream and upstream).

Essentially, the federal government argued these cases did not represent violations of the Fifth Amendment. The Fifth Amendment prohibits the government from taking private land for public use. In the Addicks and Barker Reservoir cases, property owners claim the Army Corps of Engineers intentionally allowed their homes to flood to prevent catastrophic damn failure from flooding much of downtown Houston. Property owners claim allowing their homes to flood constituted a taking of private land for public use.

Recently, both Chief Judge Braden (presiding over the Downstream sub-docket) and Judge Lettow (presiding over the Upstream sub-docket) issued orders deferring ruling on the federal government’s motions to dismiss until trial.

In the same order deferring her ruling on the motion to dismiss, Judge Braden set the trial for the 15 downstream test properties beginning April 8, 2019, and set various other deadlines for discovery and experts. The government has moved for reconsideration of this ruling, contending (among other things) the court should rule on the motion to dismiss before discovery closes. This motion for reconsideration faces long odds of success.

Although Judge Lettow technically deferred ruling on the motion to dismiss in the upstream case, he (unlike Judge Braden) addressed each of the government’s legal arguments in turn. Judge Lettow found in favor of the plaintiffs in nearly all respects. Two passages of his opinion were particularly favorable for the plaintiffs: In one, he specifically recognized the government “misstated Texas property law” with regard to flood control measures, citing a Texas Supreme Court case recognizing “where the government made a conscious decision to subject particular properties to inundation so that other properties would be spared, as happens when a government builds a flood-control dam knowing that certain properties will be flooded by the resulting reservoir[,] . . . of course the government must compensate the owners who lose their land to the reservoir.”

In his second point, Judge Lettow rejected the government’s argument that the plaintiffs cannot state a takings claim simply because the reservoirs were built decades ago. Judge Lettow focused on the government’s action in building and modifying the dams “in such a way that they could and did impound storm water behind the dams on both government and private property. That the government’s action bore fruit or had consequences only some years later does not obviate the reality that action, not inaction, is at issue.” Judge Lettow then entered a scheduling order setting trial for the 14 upstream test properties beginning February 19, 2019.

Although neither Judge Braden nor Judge Lettow explicitly denied the government’s motion to dismiss the cases, their rulings are helpful because they allow the plaintiffs to proceed with discovery. Judge Lettow’s opinion in particular gives reason for optimism because he explicitly rejected several of the government’s legal theories. We remain optimistic that the Courts will ultimately deny the motions, and allow us to proceed with trial on a full factual record for the test properties chosen in both cases in the Spring of 2019.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Harvey Reservoir Flooding Claim

The experienced lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP are working with property owners whose homes were flooded by the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. Our lawyers understand the unique legal complexities of each type of claim and are fighting hard for clients to help them rebuild. If your property was flooded, either downstream or upstream of the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, call us immediately to discuss your reservoir claim.