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How to File a Flood or Wind Damage Claim After Hurricane Harvey

Now that Hurricane Harvey has passed, thousands of businesses and families in Houston, Rockport, Victoria, Freeport, Beaumont, Port Arthur, Galveston, and Conroe are attempting to begin the difficult task of rebuilding their lives.  For those fortunate to have insurance coverage, that means filing property damage claims with their homeowner’s, flood and/or auto insurance companies.

But as those who have filed storm-related damage claims in the past already know, getting your insurer to pay the full amount of the damage is a very difficult and lengthy process.  And this process will likely be even more difficult given the number of claims being filed and the widespread and catastrophic damage that Harvey caused.

Facing billions in losses, insurance companies will seek every opportunity to delay, deny and pay out as little in claims as possible in an effort to protect their bottom lines.

Policyholders, as a result, will inevitably be forced to (1) receive nothing from their insurance company because it denied the claim, (2) accept a substantially reduced payout because the insurance company refuses to pay the full repair or replacement cost, or (3) hire a lawyer to force the insurance company to pay the full cost of repair or replacement.

In an effort to make the process easier and less stressful for individuals and businesses who have never filed a storm-related property damage claim before, our Texas Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers have prepared this general overview of the claims process, along with phone numbers and websites that they’ll likely need to consult during the claims process.

Step 1: Notify Your Insurer of Your Claim

While this will be obvious to most, the first step is to notify your insurance company of your damages as soon as possible.  If you don’t know your insurance company’s phone number or contact info, you’ll likely be able to find it on the Texas Department of Insurance’s website or by calling its Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439.

If you live in a coastal county and have windstorm coverage through the TWIA, you can call 1-800-788-8247 to report your claim.

Neither the TWIA nor standard homeowner’s policies cover flooding from rain or storm surge. To recover for property damage caused by flooding, you must have a flood insurance policy through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which is administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).

When you call your insurer, have your policy number ready and be prepared to fully answer questions about your property damage. If your home in not habitable, remember to ask if your homeowner’s insurance covers living expenses while your home is being repaired.

Write down your claim number, as well as the name, job title, phone number and email address of the agent you spoke with when reporting your claim.

Step 2: Follow Up in Writing

Texas law imposes strict deadlines on insurance companies that must be followed to avoid being subject to penalties for delaying, underpaying or wrongfully denying claims.

To ensure you are protected by Texas’ Bad Faith and Prompt Pay laws, you must immediately follow-up with a written claim (through email, fax or letter) that identifies

  • when the damage occurred
  • the property and items that were damaged, and
  • and any other information that “reasonably apprises the insurance company of facts relating to your claim.”

You may be able to provide written notice to your home and auto insurer via their website. Otherwise, you can notify your insurer via fax or email.

For home and business owners who sustained wind damage in coastal counties, you can provide written notice of a TWIA claim online.

Step 3: Document Your Losses

Once it’s safe to return to your home, take photos and/or videos of any property that was damaged during the storm. Also compile a complete list of your damaged personal items, including the date of purchase and approximate value. If you have any receipts or credit card statements showing when you purchased the items and how much they cost, include those as well.  Provide this documentation to your adjuster, but be sure to retain copies of your own.

IT IS CRITICAL THAT YOU DO NOT DISCARD any damaged property until your adjuster has either inspected the property or confirmed that you may do so.

Step 4: Secure Your Property

Property owners have an obligation to “mitigate damages,” which means they are required to take steps to prevent the property from being damaged any further.

You may take steps to secure your home or other property from additional damage by:

  • Removing the property out of your home or business (or to a higher floor that does not have any standing water) so that it doesn’t stay submerged while your insurance claim is being processed
  • Removing any standing water from your home or business, if possible;
  • Drying any items that are no longer submerged in water

You SHOULD NOT MAKE ANY PERMANENT REPAIRS, however, until you receive authority to do so from your insurance company.

Step 5: You, Your Lawyer and/or Your Public Adjuster Should be Present During the Inspection

Your adjuster will schedule an appointment to come out to your property to perform an inspection.

You should make every effort to personally be present during the inspection.  We also recommend that anyone who’s sustained significant wind or flood damage also have their lawyer and/or a “public adjuster” present.

A Public Adjuster is a professional claims adjuster who works for you, rather than the insurance company, to make sure that all of your damages are identified and that you receive the full repair or replacement costs associated with your losses.

An experienced hurricane and flood damage lawyer will know which “public adjusters” to hire and will handle the process of hiring and coordinating with them for you.

Whatever you do, you should not feel rushed during the inspection, because it’s very important that the adjuster sees all the damaged property while he or she is there.   Answer any questions your adjuster has as completely and accurately as possible. However, make sure to tell the adjuster that there may be additional damage that you have not realized yet.

Step 6: Keep a Claims Diary

Make a list of everyone who talk to at the insurance company, when you spoke with them, and a summary of your conversation.

You can record this information on your phone, computer or on a notepad.

This information will become necessary in the event that your insurance company delays, underpays or denies your claim.

Step 7: Contact Our Undefeated Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers at 1-888-603-3636 or by Clicking Here.

If you disagree with your adjuster’s estimate of damages, you shouldn’t try to negotiate with the insurance company on your own. Doing so could delay your claim further and make it much more difficult to obtain a fair and full settlement for your damages.

Furthermore, for individuals who sustained wind damage, changes to the Texas State Insurance Code that went into effect on September 1, 2017 can severely limit the interest, penalties and damages that you can recover from your insurance company in the event they delay, deny or underpay your claim.

To ensure you don’t surrender any of your rights, it’s highly recommended that you contact an experienced hurricane and flood damage lawyer if you suspect that your damage claim is not being handled in good faith.

Our Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers have recovered more than $1 billion for our clients, including thousands of Texans who lost property in Hurricanes Rita and Ike.  Our attorneys can review your adjuster’s estimate and hold your insurance company accountable if it attempts to delay, underpay, or wrongfully deny your legitimate Hurricane Harvey property damage claim.

All consultations are free and because we work exclusively on a contingency fee, you won’t pay us anything unless we recover more than what the insurance company offered you for your damages.

Call 1-888-603-3636 or  Click Here to send a confidential email to our Undefeated Hurricane and Flood Damage Lawyers.