Hurricane Harvey Hits Home
It’s been a soggy weekend here in Central Texas, but our thoughts and prayers are with our friends, family, and colleagues on the Texas coast and in the Houston area as they deal with the devastation of the hurricane and the horrific flooding that Houston continues to experience. We are heartened by the response of our fellow Texans, as first-responders and civilians risk life and limb to help those in need of rescue. We know that this is a scary and traumatic time for people in the area and some of the stress involves damage to property and insurance claims.
The Texas Department of Insurance website has many good resources for policyholders. There are useful tips for making a claim, including a Company Lookup feature where you can find contact information for your insurance carrier in the event you cannot access your personal files. There is also some good advice on avoiding contractor scams. While catastrophes like the one we are experiencing often bring out the best in people, it is a sad fact of life that they can also bring out the worst in some of us. Our advice? Make your claim early, keep accurate records of amounts you spend on temporary repairs and additional living expenses, when evaluating contractors and other vendors get written estimates and don’t pay anyone upfront, and be honest and forthright with your assigned insurance adjuster. Contrary to the image we sometimes see disseminated in the media, the insurance professionals we work with are in the business of helping policyholders get the benefits they are owed under the policy so they can get back on their feet.
TDI also has good resources for insurance professionals, including the many bulletins that have been issued related to the storm. One item that we don’t see highlighted on the TDI website is the effect of the hail reform legislation that becomes effective on September 1, 2017. The new procedures contained in that bill, including the more detailed pre-suit notice requirement, will apply to all lawsuits filed on or after that date. However, the legislation’s provisions related to the penalty for violation of the prompt payment provisions apply based on the date of the claim, not the date of filing of the lawsuit. Therefore, for a claim filed on August 31, if an insurer that is liable for a claim is not in compliance with the Insurance Code’s prompt payment provisions, that insurer will be liable to pay 18% per annum in prompt payment penalties, regardless of when the lawsuit is filed. For claims made on or after September 1, 2017, the penalty interest rate is the judgment interest rate on the date of the judgment plus 5 percent. While the dollar amount of this penalty may not make a great deal of difference to the ultimate amount owed on a claim, we’ve already seen attorneys for policyholders suggesting to their potential clients that they should submit their claims before September 1. It will certainly be a busy week for insurance professionals here in Texas, many of whom may also be dealing with their own claims. Our advice to insurance professionals? Be caring and compassionate with your claimants, but don’t let the important tasks of timely communication and claims file documentation fall by the wayside. And remember, we at Hanna & Plaut are here to help and only a phone call away.
This is a tough time for our state, but Texans are built to weather tough times. “Clear eyes, full hearts, can’t lose.”