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Hurricane Harvey Bad Faith Insurance Claims

Texas results for Texas property owners

In the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, millions of Texans have sustained serious losses. And unfortunately, too many of those victims may be victimized a second time, by their own insurance companies.

What to do after the flood
Legal rights of Harvey victims
Controlled dam releases and inverse condemnation
Chemical contamination and diminished property value

Home and business owners along the Texas coastline pay a premium for insurance coverage to protect their property in the event of a hurricane or other natural disaster. When those disasters strike, we’re supposed to be able to find some comfort in knowing that we’re protected. But in too many cases, the insurance companies fail to live up to their promises. The attorneys at Tracey & Fox are here to help.

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What to do after the flood

If you were affected by Harvey, especially if the wind or rain caused roof damage and flooding, then you need to give your insurance company written notice. Many insurance companies have portals on their websites to give notice. You may also send a certified letter, fax or email. Download a sample letter here.

Some best practices for dealing with your insurance company include:

  • Contact the insurance company first.
  • Take pictures of everything.
  • Journal everything.
  • Find receipts from past purchases of items that were damaged by the hurricane.
  • Save receipts for new replacements, including furniture, sheetrock, contractor invoices, clean-up tools – anything that was done or purchased as a result of Harvey.

The insurance companies have tried time and again to blame rising water, age of the building, and/or wear and tear on the building for hurricane-related damage, which significantly reduces your recovery. If you believe your damages were sustained as a result of wind and rain, you may have a right to more compensation.

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If you’ve been affected by the hurricane, you need to understand your legal rights

If your home or property sustained damage to the roof or windows, or interior damage caused by wind or wind-driven rain, that damage is most likely covered by private insurance. In too many cases, though, those insurance companies view the destruction of your property only as exposure to their bottom line, and they’ll act in bad faith to avoid paying your claim.

Some of the warning signs that an insurance company may be acting in bad faith include:

  • Delaying payment of your claim.
  • Paying less than your property was worth.
  • Arguing that the damage was pre-existing.
  • Refusing to send an adjuster.
  • Sending an unqualified adjuster.
  • Misrepresenting or outright lying about what your policy covers.

The insurance companies may claim that delays or other issues are due to the large number of claims they’re processing. But the reality is that we’re talking about your home or your livelihood here, and the insurance company’s responsibility is to pay what you’re owed in a timely manner. When they fail to meet that responsibility, you have legal recourse.

Understanding the law in Texas

On September 1, 2017, a new law, House Bill 1774, went into effect in Texas. This law reduces – but does not eliminate – penalties that insurance companies owe for bad faith practices in claims administration. Many Texans have been led to believe that September 1 was a “deadline” to file claims, and that they have no recourse after that date. That is incorrect. The truth is that if your insurance company has acted in bad faith toward you, you still have a case, and we’re still ready to fight for you.

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Dam Releases and Inverse Condemnation

On August 28th, in anticipation of potentially catastrophic damage from Hurricane Harvey, government officials conducted controlled water releases of the Addicks and Barker dams, flooding many Harris County homes and businesses. These releases give rise to what’s called an inverse condemnation claim: If the government seizes or damages private property to serve a public interest, the property owner has the right, under the Fifth Amendment, to fair compensation from the government.

If your property was flooded due to these controlled water releases, you have the legal right to pursue compensation from the government. This is entirely independent of your flood insurance; in fact, you can make an inverse condemnation claim even if you don’t have flood insurance at all. An inverse condemnation claim may be your best option to repair or replace your damaged property.

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Chemical contamination and diminished property value

The Houston area is well-known for its oil and gas industry. Unfortunately, in the wake of Harvey, its presence has led to even greater losses for victims.

Dozens, if not hundreds of plants have been damaged by the storm, which means deadly chemicals such as benzene and butadiene are being released into the environment. For example, an ExxonMobil refinery in Baytown sustained significant roof damage during Harvey and began emitting toxic chemicals into the air. Between the flooding, wind damage and wind-driven rain and debris, refineries, petrochemical facilities and other chemical plants have sustained severe damage.

These toxic chemicals have serious consequences for property owners in the Houston area. In addition to the immediate cost of cleanup, contaminated properties can lose much of their value, either as rental income or future resale value, permanently. And even if your own property was not directly contaminated, if it is adjacent to a contaminated property, it may lose some value as well due to buyers’ fears that the contamination might spread.

If your property lost value due to the hurricane, you may be entitled to fair compensation for that loss. Contact an experienced attorney at our firm today. We can help.

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Know your rights. Contact us today

We understand what you’re going through, because we’ve been through it ourselves. And we’re committed to helping Texans who have been affected by Hurricane Harvey stand up for their legal rights. Contact us online or call 713-936-2814 for your free consultation.

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