Tag: Hurricane Damage

Hurricane Claim

How The Hurricane Category System Can Be Misleading

As a result of recent hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Maria, and Florence, most people are pretty familiar with the hurricane category system. In about a year’s time, these four storms have wreaked havoc on the communities they hit. In light of these storms, many are concerned the hurricane category system can be misleading and promote a false sense of security.

How Are Hurricanes Measured?

The National Hurricane Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) use the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. This scale rates hurricanes from 1 to 5 based on maximum sustained wind speed. Categories 3 and above are considered major hurricanes, although Category 1 and 2 hurricanes can still be extremely dangerous. The wind speeds for each hurricane category are:

  • Category 1 – Maximum Sustained Winds from 74-95 mph
  • Category 2 – Maximum Sustained Winds from 96-110 mph
  • Category 3 – Maximum Sustained Winds from 111-129 mph
  • Category 4 – Maximum Sustained Winds from 130-156 mph
  • Category 5 – Maximum Sustained Winds of 157 mph or higher

What The Category Rating System Doesn’t Measure

While winds can definitely be dangerous and can help predict the damage inflicted by a hurricane, winds alone cannot predict the entire picture of looming hurricane damage. The category rating system doesn’t measure rainfall or storm surge, which can easily prove more dangerous than wind speeds. Both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Florence unleashed relentless rainfall after coming ashore. This rainfall caused massive flooding that not only caused billions of dollars in damage, but also claimed the lives of dozens of people.

Many are calling for an updated hurricane rating system that would help better communicate a storm’s true danger. While a new rating system could help in the future, it does little for hurricane victims that have already suffered damage. It’s been over a year since both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria and homeowners and business owners along the Texas coast and across the island of Puerto Rico are still trying to rebuild after unprecedented flooding and storm damage.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Claim Today

Rebuilding after a hurricane takes time, but insurance companies operating in bad faith often slow the process down further. If your insurance company has delayed, underpaid, or denied your insurance claim, contact Raizner Law today.

Insurance Companies

What Happens to Insurance Companies After A Major Disaster

When a major natural disaster occurs, such as a hurricane, much of our focus is on our families and our own safety. However, insurance companies can take big hits following major disasters, which often send their stock prices into immediate decline. With the aftermaths of both Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Maria in the not-so-distant past, it’s important to examine why and how the insurance industry is impacted by large scale natural disasters and what it can mean for overall recovery after these major events.

According to published data about the property and casualty insurance industry, , 2017 had the highest catastrophic losses in recent years, falling between $50 and $125 billion, with losses from 2011 and 2005 rounding out the top three. Hurricane Harvey resulted in losses ranging from $10 to $25 billion and Hurricane Maria resulted in losses up to $48 billion, although these numbers are still being calculated—but what do these losses actually mean?

In the immediate aftermath of a catastrophic event, stock prices for property and casualty insurers can take an initial hit.  But usually, these stock prices lag for the first two to four weeks as investors assess damages and earnings per share adjusts downward. But that doesn’t last long, as a major catastrophe loss tends to mean higher near term premiums. And that expectation of higher premiums tends to drive stock prices back up. Within just a few months, stock prices are often higher than they were before the hurricane or other catastrophe event. The increase in premiums also benefits property and casualty brokers, who also benefit from the higher premiums.

For insurance companies, the profitability of storms isn’t limited to major events. During hurricane season in particular, property and casualty stocks routinely outperform on average, historically rising an average of 3.5 percent since 1993. This also takes into account the average amount of hurricanes that happen each year, with around 18 storms making landfall annually since 1851. The decade of 2000-2010 was particularly notable as it averaged 18 hurricanes per year, including seven major Category 3+ hurricanes making landfall in the United States. Though it might be easy to think 2017 was a busy storm season with Maria and Harvey, only nine land-falling hurricanes occurred between 2011 and 2017.

Though one may think insurance companies are at an overall loss when disaster strikes, they are still businesses who sometimes thrive off of these bad situations. While stock prices may decline in the immediate aftermath, once the disaster claims payouts become certain, premiums begin to rise and the stock price rebounds and actually becomes much higher, reaping more profits for insurance companies. This boon presents a stark contrast to the businesses and families that are left to rebuild.

Get Help With Your Natural Disaster Claim

Although insurance companies face millions of dollars in claims, the reality is that they try to limit payouts as much as possible by utilizing bad faith tactics. When this happens, you need an experienced natural disaster claim lawyer who can hold the insurance company responsible and get you what you are rightly entitled to under your policy. Contact Raizner Law today for a free consultation to discuss your natural disaster claim.

Hurricane Harvey wind damage

Pasadena Strip Mall Owner Files Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Lawsuit

Raizner Law has filed a Hurricane Harvey wind damage lawsuit on behalf of a Pasadena strip mall owner against Westchester Surplus Lines Insurance Company after its insurance claim was wrongfully denied under Texas law.

Hurricane Harvey Devastates Texas

Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 hurricane with maximum sustained winds of 150 miles per hour on August 25, 2017. Hurricane Harvey swept through Pasadena and hit the plaintiff’s property on August 26. The high winds from the storm compromised large potions of the property’s roof, allowing rain to be driven in, causing significant interior damage. There was also significant damage to the insulation, exterior lighting, drywall, paint, flooring, bathroom, lighting, ceilings, and other parts of the property.

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

Although Westchester has, to date, provided no clear documentation of its inspection or findings, it denied the claim in full. One Westchester claims specialist based out of Georgia stated the damage was “not the result of storm-created openings but pre-existing deficiencies and/or openings in the roof covering and sealant.”

Westchester Violated The Texas Insurance Code

Our client alleges Westchester violated the Texas Insurance Code by failing to effectuate the prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failing to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim, and misrepresenting the policy under which it affords property coverage to the plaintiff.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Lawsuit

 In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, many insurance companies are trying to reduce payouts by misclassifying damage. This is wrong, and the insurance attorneys at Raizner Law are here to help policyholders stand up to insurance companies. If your Hurricane Harvey wind damage claim has been denied, contact us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Houston Hurricane Lawyers

2018 Hurricane Season Forecast and Preparedness

The start of Hurricane Season on June 1st had many Houstonians worried. It’s been less than a year since Hurricane Harvey caused devastation across the city and throughout Texas, and many people still live with constant reminders of the storm’s damage. Each year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) provides a forecast of the upcoming Hurricane Season, and this year the agency had a few interesting insights.

An Average Hurricane Season

NOAA reported that the 2018 Hurricane Season has a 75% chance of being normal or slightly above normal. But what exactly does normal mean? To the NOAA, normal still means Houston could weather a few storms. A normal or average hurricane season includes 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, and three of those hurricanes become major hurricanes (category three and above). Currently, the NOAA is predicting approximately ten to 16 named storms, with five to nine of them developing into hurricanes, and one to four could develop into major hurricanes.

Preparing For Hurricanes

Even though this year’s Hurricane Season isn’t currently predicted to be particularly active, it only takes one major hurricane to cause catastrophic damage. For this reason, everyone should make some preparations in the event of a major storm. Here are a few helpful tips to get you ready for the upcoming Hurricane Season:

  1. In case of an evacuation, have a plan ready, including where you will go, what routes you’ll take to get there, and what you will take with you. If you have pets, you may need to make separate arrangements for them.
  2. Stock up on extra water bottles and nonperishable food. Hurricanes have the potential to cause catastrophic damage to infrastructure. You may not have electricity or clean drinking water immediately after a storm, and even if you do, the roads may be damaged or blocked, preventing you from getting to a store.
  3. Closely monitor changing weather conditions. Battery powered or crank radios are ideal for monitoring weather conditions because they don’t rely on an electrical source or Internet connection.
  4. Make sure loved ones know where you are and how to contact you. All natural disasters are incredibly disruptive, so plan ahead and make sure other family members know how to reach you and keep them updated on your whereabouts.

Houston Hurricane Lawyers

At Raizner Slania LLP, we understand the challenges of rebuilding after a hurricane. Most people believe their property and belongings are protected under insurance policies, but the reality is that insurance companies are often less than honest when handling natural disaster claims, which can rob policyholders of coverage and slow down recovery. If you are still struggling with your insurance company over your Hurricane Harvey damage insurance claim, call the Houston hurricane lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP today.

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.