Author: Jeff Raizner

fire damage insurance attorneys

Industrial Building Owner Files Bad Faith Insurance Lawsuit After Fire

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit on behalf of an industrial building owner against Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London – Brit Syndicate 2987 and Hibbs-Hallmark & Company after its insurance claim was wrongfully denied.

Catastrophic Fire Devastates Commercial Property

The plaintiff owns a scrap metal dealing business that processes metal and then sells it to mills for profit. The property encompasses nearly four acres of land and includes multiple buildings, including a large scrap metal yard, a main office building, and several covered areas throughout the property. The business also utilizes numerous machines and large pieces of equipment, such as excavators, shredders, and separators, among others.

On May 5, 2017, a catastrophic fire broke out at the property. As a result, the business equipment on the property was severely damaged. In addition to damaged business equipment, the plaintiff lost extensive business income as a result of the fire damage to the property. Two pieces of industrial machinery were completely destroyed and two others sustained significant damage.

The damaged machinery prevented the plaintiff from processing and preparing its scrap metal. Because of this, the plaintiff lost business on significant materials that could have been purchased and sold to mills for a profit in the course of ordinary business operations. The damaged machines meant the plaintiff was unable to process the metal, so the plaintiff was forced to resell bulk material after the fire. Unfortunately, the post-fire material had to be processed manually, which caused the materials to incur higher labor costs.

Soon after the fire, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim for substantial property damages and lost business income. The plaintiff asked that the cost of the damages be covered pursuant to the policy, but Lloyd’s has refused to make a full payment on the plaintiff’s claim.

Lloyd’s conducted an unreasonable and inadequate investigation of the damages to the equipment and looked to find policy exclusions in order to deny the claim. Lloyd’s wrongfully denied, underpaid, and delayed plaintiff’s claim for actual damages to the property and lost business income. Specifically, Lloyd’s has chosen to continue to deny and delay timely payment of the damages.

Violations of the Texas Insurance Code

Our clients cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, including the failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and misrepresentation of the insurance policy under which it affords property coverage to the plaintiff. Our client also alleges numerous violations of the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Get Help With Your Insurance Claim

If your commercial insurance claim includes damage to specialty equipment, you will need the help of an experienced insurance attorney. Insurance companies often try to use dishonest tactics and misrepresentation to deny coverage for specialty equipment. At Raizner Slania LLP, our fire damage insurance attorneys have helped scores of clients with insurance claims and we know how to evaluate specialty equipment insurance claims. Contact us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

Hospitality Industry Claims

Hospitality Industry Claims

Rebuilding after a natural disaster can be extremely challenging for any business, but for property owners in the hospitality industry, the challenges are more staggering. Many hotel and motel owners have insurance policies to protect them and their businesses after natural disasters, but when insurance companies use bad faith tactics, the consequences can be fatal for a hospitality industry business.

Hotel And Motel Damage

Like any other property that suffers damage, insurance companies will use a variety of bad faith tactics to minimize or completely deny claims for hotel and/or motel property damage. Oftentimes an insurance company will wrongfully claim that the damage was due to normal wear and tear or inadequate maintenance of the property. While these tactics are incredibly harmful to any business, they are particularly devastating to companies operating within the hospitality industry.

Business Interruption Claims For The Hospitality Industry

Business interruption insurance is a type of insurance designed to compensate business owners for a loss in income after a natural disaster. For example, if a business suffers damage from a fire, the business will be closed while necessary repairs are made. Business interruption insurance covers the loss of income and the costs incurred by the business while it is closed for repairs.

For hotels, business interruption claims often involve a decline in occupancy. Hotels and motels are in high demand after any natural disaster or major storm. Not only are residents displaced, but restoration crews, FEMA workers, insurance adjusters, and contractors flock to the affected area. These individuals need places to stay, so it is incredibly important that damaged hotels and motels can get up and running as fast as possible to benefit from the increased demand.

When insurance companies delay or fail to pay valid property damage claims for hotels and motels, these businesses lose the opportunity to serve the numerous individuals who have been displaced or have come to the area to assist in evaluating and rebuilding. This scenario occurred for many hotel and motel owners after Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria last year. Those hurricanes devastated many buildings in their paths. While some hotels and motels were able to make repairs quickly, others sat boarded up or remained only partially operational, losing significant revenue.

Franchise Owners And Loss of Flag

For hotels and motels that are part of a franchise, delayed or underpaid insurance claims can have additional complications. Hotel franchisors have strict requirements for property condition, so when an insurance company delays or denies a payment, it can put the franchisee at risk of not being able to perform covenants in the franchise agreement.  At the end of the day, if the insurer doesn’t pay and the hotel owner cannot afford to complete the repairs themselves, the owner can lose the right to conduct business under the franchise agreement.  This then results in enormous added costs as the hotel owner seeks a different franchise – or flag – to operate under.

Get Help With Your Hospitality Insurance Claim

If your hotel or motel suffered commercial property damage or an interruption in regular business, don’t wait to contact an experienced lawyer to help with your hospitality insurance claim. Raizner Slania LLP can help you get full compensation under your policy. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Bair Hugger Infection Claim

Utah Couple Files Bair Hugger Infection Lawsuit Against 3M and Arizant

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a Bair Hugger infection lawsuit on behalf of a Utah couple against 3M Company and Arizant Healthcare. The couple alleges the companies failed to warn them of the infection risk associated with the device.

In January 2017, the husband underwent surgery in which the Bair Hugger warming blanket was used throughout the course and scope of his right total knee replacement. The Bair Hugger introduced contaminants into the plaintiff’s open surgical wound that caused him to develop a periprosthetic joint infection (PJI), also known as a deep joint infection. The pathogen identified was Staphylococcus aureus.

Staphylococcus aureus, more commonly known as a Staph infection, is a serious infection that can cause life-threatening complications. While Staph bacteria can safely appear on parts of normal human skin, when it enters into the body it can cause sepsis, pneumonia, endocarditis or the infection of heart valves, and osteomyelitis or a bone infection.

As a result of the infection caused by the Bair Hugger, the plaintiff was forced to undergo extensive medical treatment, including multi-staged revision and replacement surgeries including resection of the right total knee arthroplasty with antibiotic cement spacer placement and an incision revision, placement of a revised knee arthroplasty, and PICC line antibiotics. Despite this extensive treatment, the plaintiff still required ongoing physical therapy and home health assistance. The plaintiff may also require additional treatments in the future.

The Bair Hugger is composed of two parts: a machine that sucks in air and heats it and a blanket with holes that is draped over the patient. The heated air gets pushed into the blanket and out of the holes, delivering warm air to the patient’s body to help regulate body temperature during surgery. While medically helpful, this process also allows contaminants in the operating room air to be introduced into a patient’s open surgical wound.

The Utah couple believes the Bair Hugger device is defective in both its design and manufacture. The couple also alleges 3M and Arizant committed consumer fraud and/or unfair and deceptive trade practices under Utah state law.

Get Help With Your Bair Hugger Infection Claim

If you underwent a hip or knee surgery within the last five years and developed an infection, you may be able to file a lawsuit against the Bair Hugger manufacturers. Contact Raizner Slania LLP today for a free consultation regarding your Bair Hugger infection claim.

Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico’s Commissioner of Insurance Fines Insurance Companies For Unnecessary Delays After Hurricane Maria

For the island of Puerto Rico, recovering after Hurricane Maria has been incredibly difficult. In the six months since the hurricane ravaged the island, millions of Puerto Ricans have struggled to rebuild among an island-wide power outage, scarcity of clean drinking water, and slow response from insurance companies. However, Puerto Rico’s Commissioner of Insurance has made it clear that insurance companies will not be able to shirk their duties.

Last month, Commissioner of Insurance Javier Rivera issued a whopping 2,587 violation orders to six different insurers. Under Puerto Rican law, insurers are expected to handle claims promptly and in good faith. If a policyholder in Puerto Rico does not agree with an insurance company’s determination of their claim, they can request an investigation by the Commissioner of Insurance. These investigations have already illustrated a widespread issue of unfair dealings on behalf of the insurance companies.

To address this dishonest behavior, the violation orders also assessed fines to the insurers. The Commissioner of Insurance has issued over $2 million in fines to insurers for unnecessarily delaying processing Hurricane Maria claims.

Insurers Acting In Bad Faith

Insurance companies are first and foremost businesses. So when natural disasters occur, insurance companies face millions of dollars in claims payouts. Most companies are not in a rush to pay out, and in fact many will use bad faith tactics to limit or completely deny payouts. Insurance companies try to limit payouts to save on their bottom lines, but this is not just morally wrong – it is also illegal. Policyholders that pay their premiums regularly deserve full coverage under their policies delivered in a reasonable timeframe.

Know Your Rights After Hurricane Maria

Even under the best circumstances, rebuilding after a natural disaster is challenging. After Hurricane Maria, property owners faced substantial hurdles from the lack of electricity and damage to the island’s highways. Many property owners are still facing significant issues, but dishonest insurance companies shouldn’t be one. Puerto Rico’s Insurance Code provides numerous protections for policyholders, but insurance companies often count on policyholders being unaware of their rights. In Puerto Rico, insurers are expected to resolve claims in a 90-day claims window unless there are extenuating circumstances. Failing to meet his deadline can result in fines like the ones issued by the Commissioner of Insurance.

Hurricane Maria

Puerto Rico Still Struggling After Hurricane Maria

Hurricane Maria was one of the worst Atlantic Hurricanes to ever rip through the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. When Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico, the storm was a high-end Category 4 Hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 175 miles per hour. The damage from the storm was absolutely catastrophic and Puerto Ricans are still struggling to rebuild in Maria’s aftermath.

Hurricane Maria Makes Landfall

Hurricane Maria made landfall on Puerto Rico on September 20, 2017. In addition to hurricane force winds, Maria brought heavy rainfall, as much as 37.9 inches in some areas, which caused widespread flooding. This flooding was compounded by La Plata Lake Dam floodgate releases. Although the releases were necessary to prevent the complete failure of the dam, the floods caused by the releases trapped thousands of Puerto Ricans. Residents affected by the flood releases reported waters rose at least six feet in only thirty minutes, with floodwaters reaching a depth of 15 feet in some areas.

Puerto Rico’s Damaged Electrical Grid

When Hurricane Maria swept through Puerto Rico, the electrical grid for the island was already previously damaged. Maria further damaged the electrical grid, leaving all 3.4 million Puerto Ricans without power. In addition to the complete destruction of the electrical grid, 85% of all aboveground phones and Internet cables were knocked out, making communication impossible for the vast majority of the island.

One month after Hurricane Maria’s landfall, 88% of the island was still without power. This represented approximately three million people. Three months after the hurricane, over 1.5 million Puerto Ricans were still without power. Now, over six months later, many Puerto Ricans – especially those residing outside of San Juan – remain without power.

Problematic Recovery

Puerto Rico’s recovery had a slow start not only because of the complete damage of the electric grid, but also because even one month after the hurricane most of the island’s highways and bridges were still heavily damaged. One month after Hurricane Maria, only 392 miles of the island’s 5,073 miles of road were open.

Economic Impact of Hurricane Maria

Like all natural disasters, Hurricane Maria caused significant damage. While the exact total amount of damage is not yet known, Puerto Rican authorities have requested $94 billion in aid. The storm not only affected residents and visitors, but it left businesses also struggling. Approximately 80% of Puerto Rico’s agriculture was lost in the hurricane, which totals about $780 million.

Puerto Rico is also responsible for manufacturing many medical devices and medications, representing about 30% of the island’s overall economy. Not only were these factories forced to shut down without electricity, but many of them also suffered damage, preventing them from reopening.

Insurance Has Been Slow To Act

Although many homes and businesses were protected by insurance policies, insurance companies have been slow to act. When natural disasters occur, billions of dollars of claims can be sought from insurance providers. Insurance companies try their best to avoid paying out claims by causing unnecessary delays and using bad faith tactics. The insurance landscape is particularly complex in Puerto Rico, where a handful of domestic insurers dominate the market, but most of the insurance risk is ceded to large reinsurers in Europe.

A Dire Situation for the Puerto Rican Business Community and Economy

Hurricane Maria claims on behalf of the Puerto Rico business community will be exceedingly complex. The Insurance Commissioner has already levied extensive fines against the domestic insurance industry for failing to handle claims in a timely manner. The well-capitalized reinsurance industry in European capitals such as London and Berlin maintain much of the financial risk on Puerto Rico insurance claims, but they have been slow to release money needed to rebuild. Until they do so, the economy will remain strangled and the Puerto Rico business community will remain at risk of financial collapse.

Port Aransas Hurricane Harvey Claim

Port Aransas Still Rebuilding After Enduring Hurricane Harvey Six Months Ago

Hurricane Harvey came ashore between Port Aransas and Port O’Connor, Texas on August 25, 2017. Port Aransas was devastated by hurricane force winds, storm surges, and relentless rainfall. As a result of Harvey’s arrival, property owners in Port Aransas are still clearing debris and struggling to rebuild. According to the local chamber of commerce, 90% of all buildings in Port Aransas suffered damage from the storm, making restoration and rebuilding complicated and time consuming.

In the months after Hurricane Harvey, Port Aransas has been busy rebuilding, but progress has been incredibly slow. Many of the condos and high-rises that dotted the seashore remain boarded up, and only a fraction of hotels have reopened for business. For a town that relies on tourism, Harvey’s economic impact went far beyond the physical property damage caused by the storm – the financial losses remain ongoing because of income lost during the rebuilding process. Only about 25% of all hotel and motel rooms available in Port Aransas are open for business. For a city that sees approximately five million tourists a year, the lost revenue from Harvey is astronomical. It is projected the city will need three to five years for a complete recovery.

Harvey’s destruction in Port Aransas was absolute. Many buildings, including the police department and courthouse have been considered total losses. This means they will need to be completely torn down and rebuilt. This is time consuming and extremely costly. Harvey caused such complete damage in part because of its hurricane force winds. The National Weather Service clocked winds in Port Aransas at 132 miles per hour with sustained winds up to 110 miles per hour.

These winds tore open many roofs and other structures, allowing rainfall to drench the interiors. For many business owners, the rainfall also destroyed the interior walls, furniture, fixtures, and other interior property items.

Even though the damage caused by Hurricane Harvey seems straightforward, many property owners are fighting with insurance companies over their Hurricane Harvey claims. Although the damage is obvious to property owners, insurance companies are using bad faith tactics to ignore obvious damage and wrongfully deny valid insurance claims. They are doing this to avoid expensive payouts, which is both illegal and all too common. Policyholders that regularly pay their premiums deserve full coverage under their policies. For many Port Aransas property owners, the only way to get the compensation they are entitled to is to work with an experienced insurance lawyer.

Get Help With Your Port Aransas Hurricane Harvey Claim

At Raizner Slania LLP, our attorneys are leaders in insurance litigation. We’ve helped property owners from around the country recover funds owed under their policies and more, and we are currently fighting in court for Hurricane Harvey victims all across Texas. If you need help with your Port Aransas Hurricane Harvey claim, call us today to schedule a free, no obligation consultation to discuss your case.