In Texas after a storm, the insurance company typically will not deny the entire claim. What they usually do is deny parts of the claim based on your insurance policies. For several years now, insurance policies in our state have been the type that do not cover anything except what your specific policy covers. Due to policies we have in Texas, there are few parts of your home that may be covered. For instance, in a tornado where the roof has blown off or if it was penetrated, the insurance company may take the position that they will pay for the roof, but they are not going to pay for the water damage that may happen to the inside of your house as a result of the roof damage.
There are some questions as to whether or not the rain was windblown or if entered the roof through an open-access area. There are very technical details where insurance companies will try to hang their hat to justify not paying part or any of the claims. Another example that we often see is when dealing with hailstorm damage. They will say that the hailstorm came in from the northwest, therefore we are only going to cover the north and west slope of your wall since the east and the south slope did not get damaged. That is not necessarily true. This is an area where they may try to deny the claim. Likewise, they may say, “We are going to pay for this roof or part of the roof, but it may be a type of shingle that cannot be matched.”
The insurance companies have a responsibility to replace it with light parts, but they cannot match it if they have to replace everything. Those are the typical areas where they normally will deny part of the claim as opposed to the entire claim. The list of what they will and can deny is as long as your imagination can fathom.
What Actions are Illegal for Insurance Companies When Dealing With Property Damage?
There are numerous actions that are illegal for insurance companies. We recognize that common law means just that. They have an absolute obligation to deal with you in good faith and fair dealing, and on top of that, we have statutes that provide that they cannot deceive you in any kind of way or give you false or misleading information. They also cannot barter with you by saying, “Okay, we’ll recognize that part if you take a lower value for this part.” They must properly investigate any and every claim.
We sometimes see cases where they will not even come and look at the house; they will just deny the claim outright. That is probably going to be in bad faith on their part because they did not properly investigate the claim. There is another statute that we call the prompt pay statute. This says that once they recognize the claim, they have a duty to pay that claim in a timely fashion, and there are actually time periods set forth in the statute. Failure to pay those claims in a timely fashion, once recognized, can subject them to penalties and interests in attorneys’ fees.
Is There a Statute of Limitation for Claims Against Insurance Companies in Texas?
Yes, as the law stands currently, the time period for bringing calls of action against the insurance companies is two years from the date that the claim was denied. However, insurance industries over the last few legislative sessions in Texas have fought hard to change that law, and I expect that we will see a continued effort in upcoming legislative sessions. They are trying to change the law to say that you must file your claim within two years of the date of the incident as opposed to the two years from the date of the actual denial. It can be very problematic if you have water damage on an inside wall that does not manifest itself for quite some time. Oftentimes it may take months if not years for internal damage to the surface.
Likewise, people may not honestly know that their roof has been damaged by the hailstorm for some time. It is important that the time period run from the time in which the insurance company denies the claim because if you have just two years from the date you made the claim, then the insurance company could wait two years and one day to deny the claim. Then it would be too late for you to file the claim. Right now the law is very much in the consumer’s favor, but just know that the clock is always ticking on these types of claims. Also be aware that the insurance industry is trying hard to make the time period even shorter in the future.
Additional Information on Storm Damage Claims in Texas?
The No. 1 thing that you can do in any storm is document not only all the damage but also all of your conversations with insurance adjusters. Many times insurance companies will run you through several adjusters in an attempt to wear you down. Each adjuster will visit the site and will want to start the process all over again. Always document your conversations. Better yet, you should record them. This way you will have documentation of what each adjuster has said and possibly offered. However, if you do suffer damage, Texas law provides that you must mitigate. That means you must try to remedy the damage so that no further damage occurs even before you receive a resolution with your insurance company.
For example, if you have a hole in your roof, you need to take appropriate actions to get it patched so the damage is as minimal as possible. The last thing I would add is that you hire reputable and competent contractors to assist you with the storm damage. Those people are going to be instrumental in your claim and pursuing the claim if necessary against your insurance company. Steer clear of hiring some fly-by-night contractor who overinflates the need for the repairs and then when you need them to come and help you against the insurance company, they can’t be found. So if you’ll document, photograph, mitigate and hire good people, you are working toward protecting yourself.
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