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Navigating new litigation for Hurricane Property Insurance Claims in Texas

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What To Do After a Storm

Tip 1: File a Claim With Your Insurance Carrier

What you should do right now is file a claim with your insurance carrier. The sooner the insurance company can start the process, the better. Ensure that you document the damage as thoroughly as you can with photographs or video to show how extensive the damage is. The old saying “A photograph is worth a 1000 words” rings true in this case.

Once you file the claim, document all correspondence, provide honest answers to the insurance carrier when asked, write down the names of the people you speak with and the dates when you spoke with them.

Tip 2: Consider a Second Opinion

Most likely, an insurance carrier will send someone to your property to understand and evaluate the damage first hand. They may also bring in experts to review the damage and assist with the evaluation and estimates of loss. If you don’t agree with these estimates, look for a licensed professional to help you. A good resource might be a public adjuster.

Tip 3: Don’t Discard Damaged Items

Throughout the process, make sure you don’t discard any damaged items. The more proof you have, the better your position will be. It’s also critical that you don’t prematurely begin repairs to your property or make even temporary repairs. If you have to make temporary repairs, take pre-repair photographs, keep your receipts, and the information of the company or person that’s repairing the damage.

You might feel overwhelmed during this part of the process which is natural. But due diligence and dedication to this process will ensure you have the proper legal recourse should your claim eventually be denied. If it is denied, delayed, or underpaid, Merlin Law Group is here to help.


The Basics of Flood Insurance

The flooding from Hurricane Harvey was dangerous and damaging. Now Texas policyholders are seeking information on flood insurance to make decisions on what happens next.

The National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) defines flooding as “a general and temporary condition of partial or complete inundation of two or more acres of normally dry land area or two or more properties (at least one of which is your property) from: Overflow of inland waters, unusual and rapid accumulation or runoff of surface waters from any source, and mudflows.”

Flooding can develop in areas where there are impenetrable surfaces such as concrete, where the precipitation cannot be easily absorbed into the ground. When there are instances of extensive heavy rains, as with Hurricane Harvey which created opportunities for flash and widespread flooding.

After wildfires, floods are the most widespread of all natural disasters. Approximately 90% of all U.S. natural disasters that have been officially declared by the President of the United States include a degree of flooding. Coastal areas are at particular risk, but because so many contributing factors could possibly lead to flooding, including but not limited to, wind and storm surges, all areas are at some level of risk to flood and flood damage.


First thing to do after a flood

For health reasons, make sure to sanitize anything that comes into contact with flood water, as the extent of its contents are unknown. After a flood, your community’s water supply might not be safe for drinking purposes. In the midst of a flood, do not walk through moving water. Do not drive through any flooded areas. If you find yourself in a vehicle when a flood occurs, abandon the vehicle and make your way to higher ground if safely possible. Do not make contact with any electrical equipment if you are wet or in standing water. Steer clear of flood water not only because of contamination concerns but also for the possibility of active electric charges and avoid downed power lines.

Most home or property owners purchase a flood protection policy separate from their standard property or homeowner’s insurance policy. Customarily, property owners need to purchase flood insurance protection through the National Flood Insurance Program. Flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program to homeowners, business owners and renters alike. With the National Flood Insurance Program, all rates are set and do not differ from company to company or from agent to agent.

Flood insurance covers both the building and its contents. Remember that it is absolutely crucial to know exactly what your insurance policy covers and what it does not cover. In the majority of cases, it takes 30 days for a flood insurance policy to become active.


Overview of FEMA

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (“FEMA”) coordinates the federal government’s role in preparing for, preventing, reducing the effects of, responding to, and recovering from disasters, whether natural or man-made, including acts of terror.

How does FEMA help?

  • Temporary housing
    FEMA can assist you with at least one month’s rent at a new place and help provide  financial assistance to make home repairs.FEMA can provide money to replace personal belongings that were damaged or destroyed during the disaster, such as vehicles, furniture, appliances, and other important personal property.
  • Medical support
    If you have medical or dental expenses, funeral expenses, transportation expenses, and other serious needs caused by Hurricane Harvey. They will not be covered unless they were caused by the storm.
  • Money before claim payment
    FEMA can also help you while you are waiting for insurance money to be paid out. You may need to give FEMA a copy of your insurance policy but keep in mind, they will not pay for your insurance deductible.  You will also need to pay FEMA back after you receive your insurance money for the losses covered by your insurance.

How do I apply for FEMA aid?

Online Registration: The quickest way to register for FEMA assistance is by applying online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov.

Phone: There is also a FEMA app which can be accessed from your mobile device. If you’d prefer to call FEMA for aid, you can contact FEMA toll-free at 1-800-621-3362/TTY or 1-800-462-7585 to apply during standard hours of operation (7 a.m. to 11 p.m.), 7 days a week.

When contacting FEMA they will require your social security number, contact information, types of insurance held, a description of the loss, your annual household income, and banking information if you have one.


Claims Filed After 9/1/2017

The most important piece of information you need to know is to file your claim immediately if you experienced damage from Hurricane Harvey. This damage can include roof, structural, fencing, or tree damage, among others).

If you were able to make a claim before the Sept. 1 deadline then you receive a higher interest rate if the insurance company denies your claim. If you weren’t able to file by Sept. 1, you still should and still can file a claim but absolute diligence will be needed as the law put in place additional obstacles to burden the policyholders.

Some obstacles include:

  • Strict pre-suit notice requirements (forces policyholders to detail damage)
  • Homeowners must open their homes to the insurance company for additional pre-suit inspections even if the insurance company already inspected (and re-inspected) during the claims process
  • Insurance companies may move a trial to federal court which is usually more favorable on the insurance side
  • If you have questions about the law, your claim, and how this process is impacting you and your rights to prompt and fair payment, contact Merlin Law Group.

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