Texans have undoubtedly seen their fair share of natural disasters over the years. However, when Winter Storm Uri hit Texas and several other southern states in mid-February, many were woefully unprepared for its impact. Following the winter storm, insurance claims are pouring in as commercial property owners continue to assess the damage.
Winter Storm Uri Damage Begets Multitude of Commercial Property Claims
When Winter Storm Uri hit the southern portion of the U.S., it quickly became apparent that Texas, in particular, was vastly unprepared for its impact. Uri brought snow and ice that took days to fully thaw, which caused a massive disruption in Texas’s power grid Millions were left without power for days and some even for weeks. The inability to heat homes and business caused further disruption to water systems. For example, many business owners had pipes burst in their properties causing significant physical damage and increased delays in resuming normal business.
Weather catastrophe modelers have estimated that insured losses following the damage created by Winter Storm Uri could reach a whopping $18 billion — six times the yearly average. According to a recent Bloomberg article, Texas has already generated as many winter storm claims related to frozen pipes as the entire U.S. did across all of 2020. Additionally, the Insurance Council of Texas is anticipating hundreds of thousands of claims relating to many different types of damage to be filed, including damage to vehicles, businesses, and rental properties.
The total number of property damage claims is only expected to increase as commercial properties continue to assess their losses. Commercial properties tend to have the largest amount of loss when it comes to winter storm events. One factor is that businesses, compared to residential properties, typically have much flatter roofs that are often prone to collapsing under the weight of snow and ice.
In addition to property damage claims, that business owners likely will be filing business interruption claims due to the delay in business resuming operations as normal or in the event a business had to shut down due to a damaged structure.
How to Protect Commercial Properties From Winter Storm Damage
Due to the likelihood that another major winter storm will occur, commercial property owners should plan ahead to abate the severity of winter weather damage, including taking the following steps:
Perform Regular Inspections
Commercial property owners should regularly inspect their properties to be proactive—regardless of the season. Regular inspections can help to identify potential problems, such as, damaged and leaky roofs, older pipe systems that may need to be replaced, mold issues, and other potential repairs. Performing regular inspections throughout the year can keep commercial properties in better shape to handle extreme weather conditions and hopefully help mitigate potential losses.
Have a Contingency Plan
Having a well-established contingency plan in place can help keep businesses operating in the event of a natural disaster. Businesses across all industries, particularly those in food service or retail, can greatly benefit from a contingency plan for extreme weather conditions that might force them to make sudden adjustments.
For instance, restaurant contingency plans can include having additional backup vendors on hand, should regular vendors be unavailable. Backup generators can also help to protect refrigerated items to prevent food spoilage during power outages. Having a reliable contractor on hand can also be of use in case electrical, plumbing, or other necessary repairs are needed.
Review Commercial Property Insurance Plans
It’s important that commercial property owners and managers meaningfully review all applicable commercial property insurance policies to ensure they fully understand the scope of coverage in anticipation of extreme weather. Verifying any policy limitations on coverage and/or identifying any endorsements under which coverage can be obtained can provide peace of mind. It’s important to note, however, that even though the necessary coverage is in place, insurers can still delay, underpay, and deny property damage claims. With this in mind, it’s important for business owners to consult with a knowledgeable insurance attorney to fully understand the options available.
Was Your Commercial Property Damaged By Winter Storm Uri?
Winter Storm Uri undoubtedly caused a myriad of damage to commercial properties across the state of Texas. As many still continue to recoup their losses, it’s likely they could also face continued roadblocks with their insurers. If your commercial property suffered damage caused by Winter Storm Uri and your claim is being wrongfully delayed or has been denied, the insurance coverage attorneys at Raizner Law can help. Contact our office today to see how we can best assist with your claim.