Tag: Hurricane Damage

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.

Business Interruption Claims

Business Interruption Claims After Hurricane Maria

After any natural disaster, businesses don’t just face property damage; they also suffer economic damages from lost business. It can take a long time for businesses to resume operations after a natural disaster, and in the case of Hurricane Maria, many Puerto Rican businesses are still not operating. To help protect against these financial losses that come after natural disasters, many policyholders choose to purchase business interruption insurance.

What Is Business Interruption Insurance?

Business interruption insurance (also called business income insurance) is a type of insurance coverage that compensates the policyholder for the loss of income a business suffers after a disaster such as a fire, hailstorm, or hurricane. This coverage can cover income lost while the business was closed during a natural disaster and while the business is closed for rebuilding and repairing property damage from the disaster.

How Is Business Interruption Insurance Calculated?

When a policyholder files a business interruption claim, a thorough investigation should take place to properly calculate all of the losses endured by the business. The investigation will include an examination of financial statements such as a profit and loss report, along with the business’s history, and the number of employees, among other things. The insurance company will estimate the profits that would have been earned had the business been open based on the business’s history and other factors. The insurance company will then total and estimate the expenses a business regularly incurs, and the expenses the business incurs as a result of its closure such as moving to a temporary location. These totaled amounts should then be paid out to the policyholder to cover the entire financial loss due to the business’s closure.

Business Interruption Claims From Hurricane Maria Will Be Complex

Because Hurricane Maria destroyed the Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, downed most of the communication systems, and damaged many of the island’s highways, businesses were unable to rebuild and reopen for many months – some still remain inoperable. The losses from business interruption could be in the millions for insurance companies, and they will do everything in their power to limit claim payouts. Insurance companies often underestimate the cost of different expenses in order to help minimize claims.

Insurance companies have already faced extensive fines from the Commissioner of Insurance of Puerto Rico for unnecessarily delaying claims, but it is likely they will continue to drag their feet in paying out Hurricane Maria claims.

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.

Bridge City Hurricane Harvey Claims

Bridge City Slow To Recover After Hurricane Harvey

Residents of Bridge City, Texas were wary as Hurricane Harvey made landfall and slowly made its way along the Texas coast. Flooding has been problematic for Bridge City in the past, but nothing could prepare residents for the unprecedented rainfall dropped by Harvey.

On the night of August 30, 2017, Bridge City was absolutely inundated with floodwaters, causing widespread damage. The past twenty-four hours had seen over 20 inches of rainfall. By the time Harvey was working its way toward Southeast Texas, it was a slow-moving storm, meaning everywhere in Harvey’s path would be drenched in rainfall for several days before Harvey moved on.

Harvey’s flooding was compounded by the fact that trash and debris clogged the city’s drainage system, preventing rainwaters from draining properly. City officials estimate 90% of the flooding in Bridge City was due to its clogged drainage systems. This resulted in homes and businesses being flooded for several days before the floodwaters finally subsided.

Much of Bridge City suffered catastrophic damage from Hurricane Harvey. After Harvey passed through the small Texas city, the streets were lined with huge piles of debris as property owners immediately began trying to salvage their homes and businesses and prevent further damage. Unfortunately, much of Bridge City is still struggling. Although it’s been more than six months since Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast, recovery has been particularly slow.

Hurricane Harvey victims in Bridge City are discovering insurance companies are less than honest when handling and paying out on Hurricane Harvey claims. An insurance company is first and foremost a business, so natural disasters will cause it to pay out millions or even billions of dollars of claims. To minimize payouts, insurance companies often use bad faith tactics.

Insurance companies have been misrepresenting policies, undervaluing damages, and outright denying valid claims. Without proper payouts from their insurance companies, property owners have been financially unable to completely rebuild. For policyholders struggling with a Bridge City Hurricane Harvey claim, the only way to receive rightful compensation is by partnering with an experienced insurance lawyer.

Bridge City Hurricane Harvey Claims

The experienced insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP have helped victims of bad faith insurance tactics throughout Texas and across the country. We are working with many Hurricane Harvey victims to help them get what they are rightfully owed under their insurance policies. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim. There is no upfront cost for working with us. We work on a contingency fee basis so you won’t owe us anything unless we help you recover compensation.

Beaumont Hurricane Harvey Claims

After Unprecedented Rainfall Beaumont Still Rebuilding After Harvey

Southeastern Texas was battered by rainfall from Hurricane Harvey. Although Harvey had downgraded from its Category 4 status when it swept through Beaumont, the storm still managed to cause widespread damage. The city received so much rainfall it effectively became an island, making it difficult for people and supplies to get out or in. The lasting effect of this flooding is that the city has seen very slow progress in rebuilding.

Many houses in Beaumont were flooded up to their roofs and residents were forced to evacuate to storm shelters. The situation became dire as rising rainwater continued, completely flooding routes in and out of Beaumont. Multiple highways, including Highway 290 and I-10, were completely impassible via vehicle.

According to measurements taken by the National Weather Service, the city received 49.06 inches of water, with more than half of this rain falling during one day. The rainfall caused such significant damage to the municipal water system that it left Beaumont residents without running water for several days .

Six months after Harvey, much of Beaumont is still uninhabitable and unusable. Homes and businesses gutted by Harvey’s aftermath still await repairs because contractors have been hard to come by. For some property owners, floodwaters sat as high as the roofs for days, making entire properties a total loss. The decision whether or not to rebuild at all has been a difficult one, and some property owners are selling “as-is,” afraid of rebuilding only to be flooded again in future storms.

What the Insurance Companies Won’t Tell You 

The insurance industry has been quick to deny substantial interior damage claims to commercial properties on the ground that the wind did not create an opening in the roof or exterior. But in many insurance policies, interior damage is covered without a “storm created opening.” Whether or not interior damage is covered depends on the language of each individual policy. But too often, the insurance company will outright deny interior damage without mentioning the actual language of the insurance policy. Interior damages can be substantial, and each claim and policy must be evaluated on its own merits to determine whether or not the damage is covered.

Bad Faith Insurance Practices

Part of Beaumont’s slow recovery comes from property owners struggling with their insurance companies. Insurance is first and foremost a business. This means that when property owners try to collect on their policies, many insurance companies use bad faith tactics to avoid paying out on claims. Insurance companies may misrepresent policies to avoid payouts, including representing that certain damages are not covered by a policy when in fact they are. Insurance companies might also grossly underestimate the scope and cost of property damage to minimize payments. However, these tactics aren’t just wrong, they’re illegal. If your insurance company isn’t being straight with you during your Hurricane Harvey claim, don’t wait to get help.

Raizner Slania LLP Can Help With Your Beaumont Hurricane Harvey Claim

At Raizner Slania LLP, our lawyers have the experience and know-how to take on large insurance companies. For years we have helped victims all across the country get their rightful payments under their insurance policies. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your claim.

Port Arthur Hurricane Harvey Claim

Port Arthur Still Struggling in Harvey’s Wake

Although Port Arthur was hundreds of miles away from Hurricane Harvey’s landfall, the city and surrounding areas still suffered catastrophic damage from Harvey. The storm dropped relentless amounts of rain that caused flash flooding and other dangerous flood conditions.

Unprecedented Rainfall in Port Arthur

According to the National Weather Service, 26.03 inches of rain fell at the Jack Brooks Regional Airport near Port Arthur on August 29, 2017 alone. In total, 47.35 inches of rainfall was recorded in Port Arthur. In the days after Hurricane Harvey hit landfall, the rain continued to cause flooding for Part Arthur residents. A local storm shelter was set up at the Bob Bower Civic Center, but evacuees were forced to move to other shelters as conditions became more dangerous.

Port Arthur gained nationwide attention when news of a flooded nursing home showed residents stuck in several feet of water. Nearly 100 nursing home residents were evacuated by boat. But nursing home residents were not the only ones evacuated from Port Arthur. Thousands of residents were left displaced as rapidly rising floodwaters forced them to leave their homes with little to no notice.

Recovering After Hurricane Harvey

The damage caused by Hurricane Harvey was catastrophic for Port Arthur. City officials estimate it will cost $25 million just to rid the city of debris and garbage from the storm. The debris is also causing health problems for some residents. Drywall soaked in floodwaters can quickly develop black mold, and many residents have suffered from breathing problems and rashes associated with black mold exposure. For business owners, recovery has been particularly challenging. In addition to the cost of rebuilding, many business owners are left without a way to generate revenue after floodwaters destroyed their property.

Unfortunately, insurance companies are slowing rebuilding down even further. Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars in property damage collectively, and insurance companies are trying their best to avoid costly payouts in the wake of the storm. Many insurance companies are wrongfully denying claims and misrepresenting policies to save on their bottom lines. In some cases, insurance companies are claiming that they don’t need to pay for massive interior damages because there was no “storm created opening,” when in fact the roof was damaged. In other cases, the insurance policy does not require a storm created opening for the interior to be covered, and the insurance company is claiming the exact opposite. Each policy must be reviewed on its own merits to determine what is and is not covered.

Get Help With Your Port Arthur Hurricane Harvey Claim

If you regularly pay premiums, you are entitled to the coverage your insurance policy affords. If your insurance company is delaying, undervaluing, or denying your Port Arthur Hurricane Harvey claim, don’t wait to call the experienced insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP. We can help you get the coverage you deserve.