Tag: Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Lawyer

Galveston Condominium Association Files Hurricane Harvey Insurance Lawsuit

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of a condominium association against Texas Windstorm Insurance Association after its Galveston County Hurricane Harvey wind damage insurance claim was wrongfully denied.

Hurricane Harvey Slams Into Texas Coast

Hurricane Harvey came ashore as a Category 4 hurricane and devastated the Texas coast. When Hurricane Harvey swept through Galveston, Texas, the city and its inhabitants experienced severe gusts of wind up to 54 miles per hour. As a result of Hurricane Harvey’s devastating winds, the building suffered damage to the interiors, exteriors, lighting, elevators, security cameras, and roofing systems, among other components. Immediately upon discovering the damage, the plaintiff filed an insurance claim with Texas Windstorm and asked that the cost of repairs be covered pursuant to the policy.

In response to the claim, Texas Windstorm sent an adjuster to the property on September 29, 2017, who personally observed substantial wind damage resulting from Hurricane Harvey. However, Texas Windstorm relied upon an engineer from BSC Forensics who concluded the damage was not storm related, but instead resulted from long-term trapped moisture, installation deficiencies, and other excuses.

Despite clear evidence of covered damage, Texas Windstorm engaged in and ratified this improper claims conduct and ultimately approved a gross underpayment of the contractual damages. Texas Windstorm instead unreasonably blamed the loss on causes other than wind to avoid contractual responsibilities and to save in excess of $1,000,000. The plaintiff cooperated throughout the claim process and even had consultants meticulously point out the extent of the damages covered by the subject policy.

Texas Windstorm chose to ignore obvious damages to the property. The plaintiff was forced to hire its own representative and demand re-inspections and re-evaluations of the obvious damages to the property that Texas Windstorm ignored.

Texas Windstorm Violated The Texas Insurance Code

Our client alleges Texas Windstorm violated the Texas Insurance Code by failing to adequately pay the claim as it is obligated to do under the terms of the policy in question and under the laws in the State of Texas. Our client also claims Texas Windstorm mishandled the plaintiff’s claim to their detriment by intentionally failing to meet the deadlines or timelines established under subchapter L-1 of Chapter 2210 of the Texas Insurance Code.

Hurricane Harvey Wind Damage Lawyer

Insurance companies have no right to wrongfully deny or underpay valid claims. If you did not receive fair compensation from your Hurricane Harvey wind damage insurance claim, contact Raizner Slania LLP today. Our experienced insurance lawyers can help you get what you deserve under your policy. Call us today to schedule a free consultation to discuss your case.

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.

Hurricane Harvey Wind Claim

Performing Arts Center Files Hurricane Harvey Lawsuit

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a lawsuit on behalf of the owner of a performing arts center in Fort Bend County against Sentinel Insurance Company, LTD after its Hurricane Harvey wind claim was wrongfully denied.

Hurricane Harvey Makes Landfall

When Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017, it was a Category 4 hurricane with maximum winds of 150 miles per hour. All across the Texas coast and further inland, wind ripped through commercial and residential properties. On August 26, 2017, Hurricane Harvey caused significant damage to the plaintiff’s property. Sizable portions of the roof were compromised by wind, which allowed rain to be driven in, causing substantial damage to the interiors of the property.

Harvey completely destroyed the roof, interior, ceiling, windows, walls, flooring, and other parts of the physical structure. In addition to structural damage, other valuables such as electronics, furniture, equipment, props, and one-of-a-kind costumes were completely ruined.

Immediately after the storm, the plaintiff promptly filed a claim with Sentinel, alerting them to the extensive damages. In an effort to assist Sentinel with the claims process and to mitigate any further damages to the property, the plaintiff engaged a roofing contractor to perform emergency mitigation services and assist with estimating some of the repair costs.

According to the “Inside Claims Rep” from Sentinel, who does not even appear to be located in Texas, the plaintiff’s claim was denied in full on the basis that water entry was not due to a storm created opening, but appeared to be related to heavy rainfall from Hurricane Harvey.

It is unclear at this time whether Sentinel or their Inside Claims Rep conducted any testing whatsoever or made any attempt at preparing an estimate reflecting these outlandish findings. If any testing was conducted or estimates were in fact prepared, the documents and/or explanations were not provided to the plaintiff. Instead, Sentinel simply denied the claim and closed the file, a move designed to save Sentinel hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Although Sentinel has, to date, provided no clear documentation of their inspection or findings, it denied the claim in full on September 5, 2017. Because Sentinel has refused to pay out the claim, the plaintiff’s business has been crippled. The plaintiff had to suspend operations for several months and lost several long-term rental contracts due to the dilapidated state of the property.

Sentinel Wrongfully Denied the Wind Claim

Sentinel failed to attempt to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim, failed to adopt and implement reasonable standards for prompt investigation of the claim, and failed to provide a reasonable explanation for the denial of a claim. Our client also alleges Sentinel violated the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Harvey Wind Claim

Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars in property damage, and insurance companies are using bad faith tactics to avoid paying out on thousands of claims. If your insurance company is denying or undervaluing your Hurricane Harvey wind claim, you will need the help of the experienced insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP to get your rightful compensation. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Hurricane Harvey Wind Claim

Medical Office Owner Files Bad Faith Insurance Lawsuit After Hurricane Harvey

Raizner Slania LLP has filed a bad faith insurance lawsuit on behalf of a Houston medical office owner against Acceptance Indemnity Insurance Company after its insurance claim was wrongfully denied.

Acceptance has a history in Texas of conducting arbitrary, outcome-oriented investigations intended to deny legitimate claims. Despite Acceptance (and its parent company, IAT Insurance Group) collecting substantial amounts each year from Texas in premiums, Acceptance has intentionally shielded itself from regulation by the Texas Department of Insurance by remaining a non-admitted foreign surplus lines carrier.

Instead, the company rewards claim representatives and consultants who identify grounds to exclude property damage claims under their policies, in violation of Texas law and the provisions within the insurance contract. It is for these reasons that Acceptance/IAT Insurance Group has been sued many times in the last few years in Texas with continual allegations of bad faith, fraud, and misrepresentations being levied against it. Acceptance often settles cases and requires stringent “confidentiality agreements,” so the wronged policyholders are not permitted to tell their stories.

Hurricane Harvey Devastates Texas

Hurricane Harvey came ashore on August 25, 2017 as category 4 hurricane. Our client’s property suffered substantial wind damage from Hurricane Harvey. Immediately upon discovering the damage, our client filed an insurance claim with Acceptance.

Because Acceptance does not have a single employee in Texas, they assigned The Artisan Works Group to handle the claim. Although Texas law provides that an insurer has a “non-delegable duty” to responsibly handle claims, delegate is precisely what foreign insurance entities like Acceptance do on a regular basis. Artisan Works commenced its investigation by assigning the claim to a local adjuster.

The local adjuster observed that hurricane force winds ripped up the roof seams, causing “severe” saturation to the roofing system and leaking into the interior of the building. The adjuster strongly recommended a full roof replacement due to the wind damage, replacement of ceiling tiles (in affected rooms), and significant repair to the drywall and insulation (above the flood line). Subsequently, Acceptance asked the adjuster to revise his estimate on two separate occasions. Ignoring the obvious damages already conceded in writing, the adjuster and Artisan Works Group did what they were ordered to do by Acceptance and lowballed the claim.

Acceptance derailed the claim process, contending the water entry was not due to a storm created opening and that only a roof repair was warranted despite blatant evidence of the roof caving in. Without consulting any experts, Acceptance refused to pay the claim. Acceptance’s refusal to pay for necessary repairs has crippled our client’s ability to operate its business.

Acceptance Engaged In Deceptive And Unfair Trade Practices

Our client cites numerous violations of the Texas Insurance Code, alleging Acceptance failed to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and that Acceptance misrepresented the insurance policy under which it affords coverage to the policyholder.

Get Help With Your Hurricane Harvey Wind Claim

Hurricane Harvey caused billions of dollars of property damage. Insurance companies are desperate to limit Hurricane Harvey claims payouts. If your insurance company isn’t being straight with you, call the experienced insurance lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP today. We can help with your Hurricane Harvey wind claim and make sure you get rightful compensation under your policy. Call us today to see how we can help.

hurricane harvey insurance lawsuit

Raizner Slania Files Hurricane Harvey Insurance Lawsuit On Behalf Of Ingleside Hotel Owner

Raizner Slania has filed what appears to be the first Hurricane Harvey wind damage lawsuit within the federal court system. The plaintiff is an Ingleside, Texas hotel owner and the case was brought against Certain Underwriters at Lloyd’s London.

The affected property is a brand new hotel whose construction was completed in March 2017. The hotel consisted of three stories with a total of 72 individual hotel rooms. With an investment of over $6 million to construct the property, the Texas owner intended to own and operate the hotel for many years to come.

Surplus Lines Insurers in Texas

Underwriters at Lloyd’s London operate as the most prolific surplus lines commercial insurer in the State of Texas – by a sizeable margin. In 2017, all surplus lines insurers operating in Texas wrote a combined $5.5 billion in premiums. Of that, $1.5 billion was written by Underwriters at Lloyd’s London, with the next largest entity writing approximately $250 million in premiums.

Although Lloyd’s has a considerable presence in Texas, the company is actually only licensed to sell insurance in Illinois, Kentucky, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In order to operate in Texas and other states, Lloyd’s operates as an unlicensed surplus lines insurer. Because it operates as a surplus lines insurer, Lloyd’s is not subject to traditional state regulations, such as those promulgated by the Texas Department of Insurance.

Surplus lines insurance companies are often absentee insurers with few or no employees in Texas. In many ways, they operate as a virtual file cabinet. Lloyd’s of London is comprised of various “syndicates” made up of investors or members that bear unlimited liability for the insurance risks Lloyd’s writes. The syndicate investors are often foreign insurance entities that lack any authority to operate in Texas. Effectively, they borrow Lloyd’s surplus lines authority to operate in this state, and in doing so, they are able to access the lucrative Texas insurance market without any direct licensure or regulation.

Five distinct investors, each of which is a foreign, unlicensed, non-admitted, ineligible entity, underwrote our client’s policy. Their only legal connection to writing insurance in this state comes from essentially piggybacking on Lloyd’s surplus lines eligibility – in other words, borrowing Lloyd’s license in order to operate in Texas.

None of these insurers are licensed to write insurance in Texas and none has a single employee in the entire state. None has complied with any Texas regulatory requirements, and each of these foreign entities is essentially borrowing Lloyd’s eligibility to write insurance in Texas, to the detriment of small business consumers like our client.

Hurricane Harvey and Wind Driven Rain Damage

Our client purchased a commercial insurance policy with Lloyd’s, which was underwritten by five foreign insurers. The policy coverage period was January 23, 2017 through January 20, 2018. On August 25, 2017, the property suffered catastrophic damage as Hurricane Harvey swept across the Texas coastline. Our client’s policy (like many other policies) includes coverage for damage resulting from a “storm created opening” but not from “wind driven rain” that enters the property without coming through a damaged part of the building envelope.

When a storm creates some type opening in a building, it also opens the building up to damage caused by rainfall. This type of damage is covered under most insurance policies. Wind driven rain refers to water damage that enters the property through an existing flaw. This type of damage is usually not covered under commercial insurance policies.

In wake of Hurricane Harvey, many insurers appear to be making the most of the distinction between coverage for “storm created openings” and “wind driven rain” as a loophole through which they would cram almost all of their coverage denials. And as the 800-pound gorilla in the Texas commercial insurance market, Underwriters at Lloyd’s London is leading this type of coverage avoidance and policy misinterpretation.

Our client’s hotel suffered substantial damage from Hurricane Harvey. Sizeable portions of the roof were ripped off by high winds, allowing rain to be driven through the building envelope. In addition, outdoor lights were sheared off their metal anchors and destroyed, signs were torn off their housings and tossed into heaps on the ground, windows were smashed, unsealed, and disengaged from their housings, the interior suffered significant water damage, and the building suffered substantial structural damage. Our client filed an insurance claim with Lloyd’s to cover the cost of repairs to the property

Because neither Lloyd’s nor the five foreign syndicates that comprise the underwriters on the policy have one single employee in Texas, they assigned Engle Martin Claims Administrative Services to handle the claim. Although Texas law provides that an insurer has a “non-delegable duty” to responsibly handle claims, delegating is precisely what foreign insurance entities like Lloyd’s do on a regular basis.

In response to the claim, Engle Martin assigned the claim to an adjuster. According to the Texas Department of Insurance, the adjuster is a Michigan resident who had been a licensed adjuster for a mere two months at the time he was assigned to review the property damage.

Typically, newly licensed or inexperienced adjusters are assigned smaller, residential losses in order to hone their skills and gain experience. But in this instance, Engle Martin assigned a newly minted adjuster to inspect a multi-million-dollar property that had sustained an extensive and complex loss potentially covered by all three coverage parts – building, contents, and business interruption. The adjuster was not up to the task of assessing this claim.

Although neither Lloyd’s nor Engle Martin has to date provided clear documentation of the inspection, the adjuster purportedly visited the property on August 31, 2017. According to Engle Martin, the adjuster observed “minor” damage to the building exterior, “minor” damage to “some shingles” on the roof, downed lights, signs, gutters, and fences. The adjuster also purportedly observed “significant” water damage to the interior of the building. However, according to Engle Martin, its adjuster did not observe “exterior storm related damage which would have allowed the observed interior water to enter into the affected areas.” It is unclear at this time whether Engle Martin and the adjuster prepared an estimate reflecting these outlandish findings because one was never provided to our client, as it should have been.

Additionally, Engle Martin engaged SEA, Limited and one of its engineers to further assess the property. Sticking with the party line, on September 20, 2017 SEA opined the interior water damage did not result from wind damage, but instead resulted from wind driven rain passing into the Package Terminal Air Conditioning (PTAC) units on the exterior walls. SEA further opined water entered the building through joints in the exterior finish or flaws in sealant.

In other words, despite clear photographic evidence of storm created openings in the building envelope – including the roof and stucco exterior – SEA assisted Engle Martin in its efforts to avoid making a claim payment by implicating the “wind driven rain” limitation to the policy’s wind coverage provision. As a result, Lloyd’s has denied paying our client’s insurance claim. To this day, Lloyd’s has refused to pay for any covered damages under the policy.

New Texas Insurance Code § 542A Demand Letter Ignored

Texas lawmakers passed House Bill 1774 into law effective September 1, 2017. The controversial new law contains a number of provisions purportedly designed to protect business consumers. One such provision is a pre-suit notice and demand requirement designed to encourage early resolution. The plaintiff complied with this new provision; but, Lloyd’s of London ignored the pre-suit demand and did not respond to it.

Lloyd’s Violated The Texas Insurance Code 

Our client alleges Lloyd’s violated numerous provisions of the Texas Insurance Code, including failure to effectuate a prompt, fair, and equitable settlement of a claim and failure to adopt and implement reasonable standards for the investigation of a claim. Our client also believes Lloyd’s misrepresented the policy under which it affords coverage. Additionally, our client believes Lloyd’s violated the Deceptive Trade Practices-Consumer Protection Act.

Fighting For Policyholders After Hurricane Harvey

After Hurricane Harvey, some unscrupulous insurance companies appear to be willing to do anything to avoid paying out claims. Because surplus lines insurers operate in a gray area of the market, many get away with ripping off policyholders. Raizner Slania LLP has a successful track record of standing up to some of the largest insurance companies in the world, including Lloyd’s of London, and winning. If your insurance company isn’t being straight with you regarding your Hurricane Harvey claim, we can help. Call us today for a free consultation to discuss your case.

Houston Reservoir Lawyers

The Difference Between Downstream and Upstream Reservoir Claims

For thousands of homes and businesses surrounding the Addicks and Barker reservoirs, Hurricane Harvey’s rainfall caused massive amounts of flood damage. Both properties upstream of the reservoirs and downstream of the reservoirs suffered catastrophic flooding, but with very different causes. A recent court order for the Addicks and Barker reservoir litigation has recognized there are two very distinct claims being made by property owners.

Upstream Reservoir Flooding Claims

When the Addicks and Barker reservoirs were constructed, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers created flood pools around the reservoirs. These flood pools would spend most of their time completely dry, but would hold water in the event of major rainfall. Because land inside these flood pools would occasionally be flooded, in the 1940s the U.S. government began purchasing land inside the flood pools.

By owning the land, the government sought to prevent unsuspecting property owners from future flooding. Unfortunately, the government didn’t purchase all of the land inside the flood pools. The Addicks reservoir flood pool consists of land up to 115 feet in elevation, but the government only purchased land up to 103.2 feet in elevation. The Barker reservoir flood pool is made up of land up to 106 feet, but the government only purchased land up to 95 feet.

Land between 103.2 feet and 115 feet in elevation in the Addicks reservoir and between 95.5 feet and 106 feet in elevation in the Barker reservoir was left available to developers, who built and sold thousands of properties. People who purchased properties within this flood pool elevation were not warned they were subject to inundation; and because of this, most of them didn’t purchase flood insurance.

Unfortunately, the full reservoir lands within Addicks and Barker reservoirs were needed during the rainfall brought by Hurricane Harvey. It was only after their properties were destroyed by floodwaters that property owners learned their properties were located inside the flood pools.

Compensation For Upstream Claims

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers purposefully flooded the reservoir areas during and after the storm. The water level in the Addicks reservoir reached 109.1 feet during Hurricane Harvey and the level in the Barker reservoir reached 101.5 feet. This means the floodwaters stored in the Addicks and Barker reservoirs exceeded the boundaries of the property owned by the government. Property owners within these elevations did not consent to the use of their property for storing floodwaters.

Rebuilding properties will require a significant financial investment. Property owners looking to sell or transfer their property will likely suffer a massive economic loss due to decreased demand in the area and the diminished value of their property,. Allowing floodwaters to be stored above its own designated property boundaries constitutes a taking of private property by the government for public use. Under the Fifth Amendment, property owners must be fairly compensated for the taking of their property. Property owners upstream of the reservoirs are pursuing fair compensation from the government.

Downstream Reservoir Claims

In 1935, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began construction on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs. These reservoirs were designed to protect Houston from widespread flooding. Unfortunately, by 2009, the dams were deemed to be in “extremely high risk of catastrophic failure.” The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers began a $75 million renovation project and was in the middle of renovations when Hurricane Harvey hit in late August.

Ordinarily, the dams on the Addicks and Barker reservoirs are left open, allowing water to flow through. However, during heavy rainfall, the dams are closed and the rainwater pools in the reservoirs. This prevents heavy rainfall from inundating downtown Houston. When Hurricane Harvey brought unprecedented rainfall to the Houston area, the dams were initially closed to prevent flooding.

However, after several days of heavy rainfall, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers grew concerned that the pressure put on the dams by the increased rainfall was too great. They then made the decision to open the floodgates via controlled releases to prevent a total failure of the dams. As a consequence, thousands of properties downstream of the dams were flooded.

Compensation for Downstream Claims

When the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers made the decision to open the dams, they did so knowing it would cause widespread flooding. By allowing floodwaters to flood properties immediately downstream of the dams, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers seized private property for public use. When the government takes private property for public use without fairly compensating property owners, it is called inverse condemnation. Property owners downstream of the reservoirs are pursuing compensation from the government for the taking of their property for public use.

Houston Reservoir Lawyers

Upstream and downstream reservoir claims are very different, but the experienced lawyers at Raizner Slania LLP are working with property owners on both types of cases. 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 learn your legal options.