As the Houston area recovers from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Harvey, home and business owners need to understand their rights to compensation - and the legal challenges they may face.
"If your property was damaged by wind or wind-driven rain - that's generally roof damage, window damage, and some interior damage - then your private insurance should cover it," said Houston attorney Sean Tracey of Tracey & Fox. "But you may be in for a rough ride dealing with the insurance company."
That's because, according to Tracey, there's a significant risk that insurance companies may delay, underpay, or deny some legitimate claims, and that behavior may rise to the level of bad faith.
"Pay close attention to what your insurance company does, and document everything," Tracey said. "If they refuse to send an adjuster out to examine your property, or send one who's clearly unqualified, that's a red flag. If they claim your damage was pre-existing or misrepresent what your policy does and doesn't cover, that's a huge red flag. And you need to call a lawyer right away."
Many Texans were warned that they needed to get their claims in prior to September 1, when a new state law, House Bill 1774, went into effect. But according to Tracey, that date wasn't a deadline.
"HB 1774 reduced the penalties on insurance companies for handling claims in bad faith, but it didn't eliminate them," said Tracey. "You still have rights, you still have a case, and you should still talk to a lawyer."