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INSURANCE CLAIMS
Hurricanes and Storms
What to Do After a Hurricane or Other Storm
STORM VICTIM ANSWERS
 
After enduring a terrible storm and discovering your home is damaged, the next step is to have your insurance pay for what is covered. Not every type of damage will be covered, including rising water or flood and some policies exclude wind driven rain. 
 
What can you expect and what can you do?
 
There are several types of claims you may be able to make depending on your situation. The most common problems with insurance companies are as follows:
 
  • Underpaid claims. 
    • The insurance company does not find the item damaged.
    • The insurance company claims only certain repairs need to be made.
    • The insurance company will only pay for the damages to be repaired and not replaced.
    • The insurance company disagrees with your contractor or expert.
 
  • Losses Not Covered
    • The insurance company says the damages are caused by rising water and they are not.
    • The insurance company says the damages are caused by wind driven rain and they are not.
    • The insurance company says the damages are caused by poor home maintenance and not storm damage.
 
  • Delays
    • The insurance company has not accepted or denied liability.
    • The insurance company has accepted liability, but has not produced an offer for replacement or repairs. 
    • The insurance company has agreed to pay the claim but has delayed sending the payment.
    • One improper delay is to over depreciate your claim settlement resulting in a lower ACV payment. Depreciation should be based on age OR condition. Many times adjustors will simply depreciate items based solely on age when something is in “like new” condition. This keeps money in the insurance company’s pocket and not yours.
 
There are countless other possibilities. However, these are the most common complaints. If you have one or more of these complaints, you may be able to recover a greater settlement from your insurance carrier or obtain one when none was offered. 
 
Your claims will be for contract violations, insurance code violations and Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations. In each and all of these causes of action, you will be able to recover your attorneys’ fees. If your case is accepted by this firm, you may be able to defer the payment of your attorneys’ fees until recovery or settlement.
 
ATTORNEYS FEES
 
Your claims will be for contract violations, insurance code violations and Deceptive Trade Practices Act violations. In each and all of these causes of action, you will be able to recover your attorneys’ fees. If your case is accepted by this firm, you may be able to defer the payment of your attorneys’ fees until recovery or settlement.
 
Since you will need every dollar you can recover to repair your home, the most sensible fee arrangement is an hourly contingent agreement. In this arrangement, the attorneys fees are tracked and billed as they occur and on resolution, they are paid. If no recovery is made, then there are no attorneys’ fees to pay. 
 
TIMELINESS IS EVERYTHING
 
The insurance company has duties and obligations under the law to resolve your claim timely. When they fail to do so, they may be liable to your for damages, penalties or fines and attorneys’ fees.
 
RUDE, UNPROFESSIONAL ADJUSTORS (many adjustors are new or from out of state and have limited knowledge of Texas policies and estimating structural damages and handling contents claims)
 
Regrettably, there is no cause of action you can bring against an adjustor for being rude and unprofessional.   You can, however, report them to the State Board of Insurance as well as their own company. You have been through enough, and the last thing you need is someone who treats you with disdain and no respect. 
 
If you are able to bring a claim against that adjustor’s company for other reasons, their treatment will be very useful for your case as fuel for a jury’s anger.
 
HOW TO DEAL WITH RUDE, UNPROFESSIONAL ADJUSTORS
 
The absolute best thing you can do is record them. In Texas, as long as you are aware that you are recording them, it is legal to make a recording. There is no need to advise them you are recording them.  
 
If they are present in person, you might get a micro cassette recorder or digital recorder and keep it on you as you walk around the home with them. 
 
 
If they are on the phone, you can get a cassette recorder from Radio Shack for about $40.00 and a device that connects your phone to the recorder for another $20. Go to Radio Shack and search
 
vox cassette recorder
and 
phone recorder
 
DOCUMENT EVERYTHING!!!
 
You can not take too many photographs or video. I have had cases with hundreds of photographs. There is no such thing as too many. You should photograph and video everything that is a part of your claim. There should be no exceptions. The sooner the better. If you have not done so already, take pictures of what is there now. 
 
Additionally, document every contact with the insurance company. If they call you, keep a log in a notebook of what they said to you. Even better, confirm the conversation in a letter or email. Preferably, don’t talk to them on the phone unless it is being recorded by you. 
 
HOW TO DEAL WITH MULTIPLE OR CHANGING ADJUSTORS
 
Ask for the supervisor. If your adjustor changes, go up the chain of command. It is their duty under the law to adjust the claim timely.   Keep pressuring them. It is not your problem they switched adjustors and are behind, it is theirs. 
 
CAN I GET MY OWN ESTIMATES?
 
Absolutely and you should do so. Contractors are much better at advising you whether an item needs repairs and how it will need to be done. Estimators and adjustors look for the cheapest, most inexpensive means of repair. They are content to replace each of the missing roof shingles from your house and ignore that the remaining shingles have been compromised and that you may not be able to match the colors. 
 
In addition, they will ignore events that happen in wind storms such as wracking. This is where the structure’s framing is adjusted or moved so that it is no longer plumb or square as it was when originally built. 
 
WHEN WILL THIS EVER END?
 
Adjustors know that you will wear down over time. So do the insurance companies they work for. They count on you giving up. They want you to give up and they know the vast majority of claimants will accept either a “low ball” or compromised settlement. 
 
No one can make you fight them and you can take any offer they make. The one fundamental consideration for you should be that once you accept a lesser repair or no repair or you take less money for the structural issues, they are done. But you aren’t. 
 
If you sell the house or perhaps even refinance, you are going to have to disclose most repairs made to the house. You will also have to disclose the insurance proceeds you received for damage to the house. In the end, they are asking you to accept less and the result is not simply less money to repair the house, it may devalue or lessen your market value. 
 
 
WHY SHOULD I FIGHT THEM? WHY NOT TAKE WHAT THEY OFFER?
 
You may decrease the market value of your home by accepting lesser repairs or less money to make repairs with. If you let the insurance company pay you for a patch of your roof instead of a new roof, then you are directly decreasing the value of your house. The patch work will likely be unsightly as well as inferior to a new roof. If you accept this, then your future buyer will almost certainly demand that you either pay for a new roof or concede the price of the new roof in the sale of your home. 
 
If you fight for the right repairs now, then you will recover the current peace of mind that comes with having the correct and appropriate repairs AS WELL AS PROTECTING YOUR HOME’S FUTURE VALUE!
 
BUT I ALREADY SETTLED MY CLAIM. IS IT TOO LATE?
 
HOW LONG CAN I WAIT?
 
Most insurance policies have a two year statute of limitations for making a claim. You should read your policy carefully and if unsure, have an attorney read it for you.
 
 
 
Keep track of your work and expenses (before and after the storm). Did the adjustor fail to ask you if you did any temporary repairs? (Water extraction, tarp the roof, clean out the fridge, clean up debris, remove trees from the structure, etc). If so, there’s a penalty for that!
 
Did the adjustor allow for Additional Living Expense while repairs were being made?
 
Most insurers pay for continuous items until a doorway is reached. Many newer homes have an ‘open concept’ where one room flows into another with few or no doors. TWIA does not pay for continuous items!!!! If you have a wall in your house that is common to a loft (where damage exists) and to the stairwell. TWIA only allowed for painting the walls of the loft, but not the stairwell. Same for base trim!!! UGH!!!
 
 
 
Evin G. Dugas - Attorney at Law 512.261.0044 Evin@housedefects.com
2303 RR 620 South,   Suite 135 PMB 361,   Austin, Texas 78734
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