Month: December 2015

Insurance Claims from Tornadoes in Texas

A monster storm system marched eastward, bringing tornadoes, flash floods, and freezing rain to North Texas the last weekend of December 2015. The National Weather Service confirmed three tornadoes were part of the storms that ripped through the Dallas area on Saturday, killing 11 people and damaging hundreds of buildings.

Tornadoes can spread destruction over a large area, impacting countless businesses and communities. Damage often results from either a direct hit from a funnel cloud or any accompanying windstorm, rain, and hail, impacting commercial and industrial businesses of all sizes, apartment complexes. Properties near but outside of the primary tornado track often suffer similar structural damage, even though they may not have been directly hit. This type of damage can leave a business open to additional property loss, lost profits, business interruption and financial hardship.

Even if a structure or building wasn’t leveled by a tornado, it may have sustained severe wind damage that is difficult to detect. When we handle tornado claims, we don’t just accept the estimates provided by the insurance company’s adjusters. We obtain independent evaluations from professional experts, contractors, engineers, and independent adjusters – who all have extensive experience dealing with commercial tornado claims. In an environment where the insurers are seeking to minimize their losses, our prior experience in tornado cases is that they avoid or underpay the cases for properties near but not in the direct path of the tornado. That is when a knowledgeable, experienced property insurance attorney can make all the difference.

How Your Insurance Company May Operate In Bad Faith

Insurance law is clear. Insurance companies are required to conduct a reasonable investigation and promptly accept a claim unless they have a responsible basis to deny coverage under your policy. This is as true for small, medium, or large commercial claims as it is for owners of residential property.

Although insurance companies should honor valid insurance claims, our attorneys have witnessed instances where companies have underpaid claims or simply refused to pay. Many times this refusal to pay has nothing to do with the client’s claim, but is financially motivated by the insurance companies’ internal profitability metrics and loss ratios, and even how the insurance companies compensate their claims personnel and executives. At Raizner Slania, we understand how insurance companies operate, and we know from experience that these denials can have devastating financial effects on claimants whose properties are in need of urgent repair.

The normal insurance runaround gets exacerbated in the aftermath of tornadoes because a large number of policyholders are making claims at the same time and the insurance companies are making decisions about claims based on their own financial situation and projections instead of putting their clients’ interests first. Our attorneys have extensive experience working with clients who have been underpaid, paid late, and wrongfully denied by their insurance companies in cases of insurance claims from tornadoes and have succeeded in recovering what our clients were entitled to under their policies.

Raizner Slania Has Extensive Experience With Insurance Claims from Tornadoes

The attorneys at Raizner Slania are insurance litigation professionals whose main concentration is handling bad faith insurance claims. From helping the residents of Joplin, Missouri after the 2011 tornado to handling large, sophisticated commercial cases for North Texas commercial property owners following the severe hail events in 2011 and 2012 to serving on the litigation steering committee after Hurricane Ike’s destruction –its large size wreaking havoc on infrastructure and resulting in $25 billion in damages – we have focused on pursuing commercial insurance carriers that denied, delayed, or disputed insurance claims for our clients. The lawyer you select can make all the difference in how your claim resolves, and before hiring an attorney, you should ask questions about their experience and background. Too often, lawyers who practice in other areas decide to become insurance lawyers after a major storm, with results nearly as catastrophic as the storm’s fury. When seeking counsel for your insurance litigation, choose experience, and choose wisely.

If your commercial insurance carrier has acted in bad faith regarding your business’s tornado damage claim, the experienced insurance litigation team at Raizner Slania can evaluate your business’s potential claim. Please contact us today for a free initial consultation.  We handle all bad faith insurance litigation cases on a contingency fee basis, meaning your business pays us nothing unless we help you recover financially.


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.


Bair Hugger Consolidation Into Multidistrict Litigation

The Judicial Panel on Multidistrict Litigation recently consolidated Bair Hugger claims into MDL No. 2666 and transferred the cases on file to the District of Minnesota under The Honorable Joan N. Ericksen. This MDL centralizes and coordinates all of the federal court litigation against 3M Company and its Arizant Healthcare subsidiary over allegations linking Bair Hugger forced air warming devices to joint infections following hip or knee replacement surgery.

Centralization helps the cases be administered more efficiently and makes the logistics more convenient for the parties. Complex cases are often centralized to avoid the duplication of efforts in discovery, prevent inconsistent evidentiary rulings, and conserve judicial resources.

There are currently several dozen hip infection lawsuits and knee infection lawsuits pending in federal courts across the country. Each defective medical device lawsuit involves allegations that a Bair Hugger warming blanket used during joint replacement surgery caused contaminants to enter the sterile surgical field and caused resulting infections. It is ultimately expected that hundreds, if not thousands, of Bair Hugger lawsuits will be brought throughout the federal court system.

Why Are Bair Hugger Devices So Dangerous?

Patients who have filed cases against 3M assert that the use of forced air warming blankets causes substantial increases in the number of particles in the air near a surgical wound and higher risks of deep joint infections following hip or knee replacement surgery. There are more than 50,000 Bair Hugger warming blankets in hospitals nationwide, and the devices have been used on millions of patients. Hospitals have used these products for decades, and more than 80% of American hospitals use these products in millions of surgeries each year.

Raizner Slania: Lawyers For Bair Hugger Defect Claims

Lawsuits involving this device are already pending in state courts across the country and now a federal MDL has also been formed. Time limitations apply to medical device injury claims, so you should contact a lawyer as soon as possible. Patients who had a total hip or knee implant replacement that developed infection in the last five years may be entitled to compensation. Call Raizner Slania at (844) 456-5065 to learn more about your legal rights.


Seneca Insurance Suit Filed By Tyler Business Owner

Our client, the owner of a Tyler events and concert facility, has filed suit against Seneca Insurance Company, Inc., a third-party adjusting firm, Vericlaim, Inc., and its adjuster in Dallas County District Court. The lawsuit stems from a claim the company filed against its insurance for damages sustained in wind and hailstorms, which our client’s claims were wrongfully denied and underpaid.

According to the complaint, there were severe wind and hailstorms on April 6, 2104 and April 18, 2015, which caused serious damage to the commercial property, including the roof, windows, HVAC, exterior, interior, ceilings, furnishings, and more. Right after the storm, our client filed the claim pursuant to its insurance policy with Seneca Insurance.

Seneca Insurance Engaging in Bad Faith Practices

Seneca, a foreign insurer, assigned Vericlaim, a Dallas company, to handle the insurance adjustment, and they, in turn assigned an individual adjuster. The insured contends that no competent consultants or adjusters were assigned to objectively evaluate the damage. The adjuster refused to provide the report or findings of his investigation or that of his retained engineer, failed to respond to emails or provide updates, and generally prolonged the claims resolution. The adjuster Vericlaim assigned ultimately misrepresented that there was no hail damage to the property and the claim was denied.

The situation was so bad that our client hired its own consultants and representatives to prepare its own estimates, all of which Seneca ignored. Beyond the extensive damage to the special purpose building itself, the delays and misconduct by Seneca and its adjusters has resulted in lost revenue from cancelled and delayed concerts and other events.

Wrongful Denial Of Commercial Property Damage Claims

The complaint alleges that Seneca Insurance, Vericlaim, and the individual adjuster wrongfully denied and underpaid our clients’ claims for property repairs under the policy and that the adjuster wrongly misrepresented that some damages and losses were not covered under the policies when they were. The commercial property damage insurance claims process was delayed and Seneca Insurance refused to issue further payments under its policies, which our client claims has caused serious financial harm.

Our client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, mostly involving the failure of the opposing parties to reasonably settle 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. The company also alleges breach of contract, breach of duty of bad faith and fair dealing, 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.

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.