Claims for Hurricane Damage in Texas
When hurricanes sweep through Texas, there isn't much a property owner can do except have a good insurance policy. Unfortunately, sometimes that isn't enough. When hurricanes strike, incredibly strong winds and flooding can do some serious damage that may leave you with thousands of dollars of damage. An important first step is to document all of your losses. Take pictures and make notes to evidence what exactly you need coverage for. When you speak with your insurer, they will be able to help you start the claims process.
When hurricanes strike, they don't just cause damage to one or two homes. They affect entire cities and regions.
This tells insurance companies that they are going to have to give a lot of payments to their policy holders. Be informed of what is in your insurance policy and what expenses your policy will cover. If you are sure that your policy covers evacuation expenses but your insurer is refusing to pay for your hotel bill then this could be a sign of bad faith insurance practices. After a natural disaster like a hurricane, your home may be unlivable, leaving you with no other option than to rely on your insurance company. If you need help getting the coverage from your insurance company that you deserve after hurricane damage then you should contact an attorney from our firm.
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Common Hurricane Damage
Heavy wind and rain characterize all hurricanes and tropical storms. These are two factors that can cause a myriad of damages to your property.
- Surface damage to your home can affect more than just the aesthetic. Things like broken windows and roof paneling may cause damage to the inside of your home. In hurricanes, heavy winds cause debris to be picked up and flung. This makes windows susceptible to breaking. Some people try to prepare their windows for storms by boarding them up but this does not always suffice. Heavy winds can take shingles off of roofs or lift roofs off of homes altogether. Garage doors are another thing that can be damaged by heavy winds. If your garage door is damaged then likely the rest of your house will be susceptible to the elements.
- Your home may have also sustained structural damage. If moisture reaches inside your home, as often happens, there are countless things that could go wrong. For one, floorboards can be ruined. Whether you have wood floors, tile, or carpet, water damage can force you to have to replace the entire area. Many people also have basements, which will likely flood in the event of a serious storm. Make sure you do not venture down into your basement after it has been flooded, since loose wires can send an electric current through anything the water touches. You may even be dealing with fire damage because of exposed wires.
This is not a comprehensive list by any means. A complete list of possible hurricane damage is near impossible to formulate because in a storm nothing is orderly. If your property was damaged in any way that causes you to need to file a first-party insurance claim you will need to speak with your adjuster. If you find out they are not willing to cover the cost of damages they are obligated to, this constitutes the need for legal help.
Hurricane-Related Water & Flood Damage in Houston, TX
After a home or a business is damaged by water, they may be forced to rebuild entirely. The structure of the building may be compromised by the water or the water may seep into cracks in the building causing mold. The base of your business may be unstable due to the water that has damaged the flooring and the bottom of your building, and it may have claimed many first-floor desks, offices, and even paperwork as a result.
Despite the type of damage that has been caused by a flood or water after a hurricane, it is important to use the services of a Texas insurance claim attorney as soon as possible. While many commercial property insurance policies exclude flood damage, you may still be able to recover financial compensation due to water damage with the help of a team of leading trial lawyers on your side.
Flood Damage from Hurricane Harvey
For 6 days in August 2017, Hurricane Harvey devastated the Houston area with more than 1 trillion gallons of rainfall—enough to keep Niagara Falls flowing for 2 weeks. An out-of-date reservoir system and a once-in-500-year storm created the perfect conditions for unprecedented flooding. Tens of thousands of homes and businesses were destroyed, and over $100 billion in damages may leave Houston in disrepair for years to come.
Unfortunately, many of the people hit hardest by Hurricane Harvey didn’t have flood insurance under the National Flood Insurance Program (underwritten by FEMA), leaving them at the mercy of private insurers. Of the three largest property insurers in Houston, two of them have faced lawsuits for committing insurance bad faith after Hurricane Sandy and Hurricane Katrina.
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Houston Attorneys Helping Business Owners File Hurricane Claims
If you are a business owner who has suffered a devastating economic loss due to a recent hurricane or tropical storm, we can help. We handle claims relating to water damage and flood damage to businesses throughout Texas and all other Gulf Coast states. Our office understands that losing your business comes as a costly affair, one that every business owner wishes to avoid at any cost. When it comes to claims of water damage and damage due to floods from a hurricane or tropical storm, a person may have a tough time with their insurance provider.
In some cases, an insurer may claim that the business owner's insurance plan does not cover certain damages, such as water damage from a tropical storm. Some insurance companies only cover certain types of water damage, such as from a flood caused by a hurricane. This can mean, for a business owner, that even though the storm began as a hurricane and downgraded or escalated after it passed through your town, you still may not be covered. It is important to have your lawyer review your claim to ensure you can seek the maximum amount.
Hurricane Damage Claims for Texas Businesses
Since 2005, the Gulf Coast region has been hit by two of the costliest and most devastating hurricanes in the history of the United States. Katrina struck in 2005 leaving 1,800 people dead and exacting close to $110 billion in damages. Hurricane Ike hit the Gulf Coast in September 2008, resulting in nearly $30 billion in losses. Businesses throughout Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida suffered heavy damage to their property, equipment and inventory. Unfortunately, attempts to collect storm-related coverage from their insurance companies have too often been met with delays in payments or denials of legitimate claims.
Our Houston insurance lawyers have a successful record of protecting the rights of business owners in their disputes with insurance companies. We know the unique insurance issues that businesses face, and we use a nationwide network of resources and experts to obtain successful verdicts and settlements in our clients' favor.
Will a Business Interruption Policy Cover Storm Damages?
A business interruption policy can be similar to a homeowners' insurance policy in that it may cover the same types of structural damage inflicted by water, wind, mold, and mud.
However, the policy may differ in two ways:
- It may cover property, equipment, and inventory that are unique to business claims, such as computers.
- It may feature coverage for periods when business drops off during a storm recovery period or when a business is adversely impacted because of problems other companies you work with are experiencing.
The difference between a property insurance and business interruption policy is that additional coverage is given with business interruption insurance. The additional coverage is compensation for profits that would have been earned had the business not been damaged or caused to close for a period. If a storm damages your business and you possessed a business interruption policy, then you will be covered.
Business interruption also covers the expenses your business faces even though the location is temporarily unusable. Past expense records will determine these costs.
This policy will also cover the costs that accumulated in having to move your business and operate out of a different location while the damages are being repaired. Especially if your business is operating out of the Gulf Coast area, it would be wise to get business interruption insurance because property insurance will not cover all of the losses your business will incur as a result of a tropical storm or hurricane.
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Gulf Coast Commercial Hurricane Insurance Disputes
Hurricanes and tropical storms bring with them wind, rain, mold, mud, and debris that can inflict property damage to businesses, much like those suffered by homeowners. Roofs, foundations, drywall, insulation, and garages may all need repairs in a storm's aftermath. In addition, businesses may lose valuable assets because of damaged computers, inventory, and business records. Expensive equipment and machines may need to be replaced.
All of this damage typically results in serious disruptions in the flow of supplies and customers. Those disruptions can affect a business for weeks or months, leading to a crippling loss of revenue. Arnold & Itkin can review your policy to determine the extent of your coverage, calculate deductibles and identify unique business clauses in your policy that should entitle you to compensation. For instance, many businesses have "business interruption" coverage, which compensates for loss of income during the period when repairs are made.
- Apportioning Damages
While a business policy may cover wind and rain damage, it may exclude coverage for flood damage. Our law firm's experts can inspect and examine your property to make sure there is a fair apportionment between your covered and uncovered losses.
- Extended Period of Indemnity
Returning to pre-storm revenue levels takes time, and many business insurance policies stipulate that the business can recover losses for a period of time after the business has reopened. The insurance companies may argue that the losses are due to general economic conditions and are not a direct result of a hurricane or tropical storm, thus shortening the recovery period.
- Contingent Business Interruption
When third party suppliers cannot deliver critical services such as power, water, and sewer, your business insurance policy may provide for associated losses. The insurance company, however, may dispute whether or not your losses are a direct result.
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How Will I Know What Is Covered by My Policy?
Generally, homeowners' insurance policies will cover wind and rain damage but exclude floods. Flood damage is typically covered in a separate policy through the National Flood Insurance Program administered by the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Without this you likely will not receive any money. This means the damages to your home will need to be apportioned between covered and non-covered losses.
What's the Difference Between a Hurricane & Tropical Storm?
A tropical storm forms at sea with a large low-pressure center and numerous thunderstorms that produce strong winds and heavy rain. Even though it is not a hurricane, a tropical storm can still inflict heavy damage due to wind, rain, storm surges, mud, mold, and debris. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when the winds reach at least 74 mph. Using the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale, forecasters can measure a hurricane’s intensity and convey the potential impact of hurricanes. Based on this information they are placed into one of five categories. A Category 1 hurricane is the weakest, packing 74-95 mph winds, while a Category 5 storm is the strongest, with winds in excess of 155 mph.
Regardless of whether your property damages are inflicted by a hurricane or a tropical storm, your insurance policy may cover repairs and rebuilding costs. The hurricane insurance lawyers at Arnold & Itkin can review your policy in close detail and let you know of any potential issues.
Has the Gulf Coast Recently Been Hit Hard by Hurricanes?
Yes. In 2005 and 2008 the Gulf Coast was hit by two of the most devastating hurricanes in U.S. history. Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005 and left 1,800 people dead in its wake, with financial losses estimated at close to $110 billion. Three years later Hurricane Ike swept through, causing an estimated $30 billion in damage. The residents of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Georgia and Florida have experienced unusually active and destructive hurricane seasons for the last five years with forecasters at the National Hurricane Center predicting that this uptick in storm activity is part of a natural cycle that could last 20 years or more. Insurance companies have been required to pay out billions of dollars in claims. As a result, they have become more aggressive in denying, delaying storm-related claims or settling them for less than they are worth.
Do Insurance Companies Really Try to Avoid Paying the Full Value?
Many people believe that denying, delaying or making lowball settlement offers is a prevalent practice throughout the insurance industry. In fact, a lawsuit was filed by the Louisiana Attorney General in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina, based on allegations that a study advised one insurance company to put up a fight when policyholders fought low settlement offers. The lawsuit alleged that insurance companies had “coerced their policyholders into settling their claims of damages for less than their value by editing engineering reports, by delaying payment and by forcing policyholders to litigate claims to receive full value.”
What If My TV & Stereo System Were Destroyed?
If you have a homeowners’ insurance policy that covers personal property damage, you may be entitled to payment for the loss of many of your personal possessions, including your electronics such as your TVs and stereo. In addition, your policy may also cover your jewelry, clothing, furniture and even an automobile. You should check your files right away to find any receipts or other documentation indicating the cost of your items -- insurance companies are reluctant to pay any amount and will certainly give your claim scrutiny.
An “SIU Adjuster” Has Been Assigned to My Claim. What Does This Mean?
Insurance companies employee various types of adjusters including company, independent, and public adjusters. All have the ability to review insurance claims. An "SIU adjuster" is from the special investigative unit. This adjuster may be assigned to a case when an insurance company suspects fraud. If you have been contacted by an SIU adjuster assigned to your case, it is possible your insurance company believes you have submitted a fraudulent claim. Another possibility: the SIU adjuster may by trying to intimidate you into quickly accepting a low offer for your damages. Regardless of the reason, if an SIU adjuster is investigating your case, you should immediately obtain legal assistance.
It Has Been Months & I Still Haven’t Received Compensation. What Can I Do?
When you file a legitimate claim and there appears to be no progress, contact your insurance company to find out the status. The law protects you against "bad faith" insurance practices, including the failure to affirm or deny the coverage of your claim within a reasonable time period.
The law provides several potential remedies if the insurer is found to have acted improperly, including:
- Breach of contract
- Breach of the duty of good faith and fair dealing
- Statutory penalties that can include money damages and attorney’s fees.
If My Business Is Slower After I Reopen, Can I File a Claim with My Insurance Company for Lost Revenue?
Most businesses have “business interruption” insurance that is designed to cover:
- Profits you would have earned had you not been closed due to the disaster;
- Operating expenses, such as water and electricity, you may incur even if closed; and
- Expenses for temporary premises.
If you have a business interruption policy, you may be entitled to compensation for the “extended period of indemnity.” This period starts once you have completed your repairs and reopened your business and extends for a period specified in your policy, which can be several months or as long as a year. The payments you could be entitled to would be equal to the difference between your pre-storm revenue and your post-storm revenue, based on your financial records. You will need to have documentation to show what your business earned.
If the Supplier Is Unable to Fulfill Its Obligations, Will My Insurance Policy Cover the Additional Expenses?
If you have contingent business interruption coverage, then you may be entitled to compensation when your business operations are affected due to the interruption of service by a company in which you rely for goods. This type of policy covers losses that are directly caused by damage to a “contingent” business. Your insurance company will probably require that the loss be of the same type covered under your own business interruption policy and that the result was a significant disruption or suspension of your business operations. It is important to review your insurance policy to determine how coverage would be affected.
After the Storm, the Local Area Was Blocked. Can I Recover Damages?
If your business insurance includes "civil authority" or "ingress and egress" clauses in your policy, you may be eligible to receive coverage for losses due to the inability to operate your business from a forced closure or for the inability of customers or goods to access your business. Civil authority clauses cover your losses due to the mandated closure by the local government. Ingress / egress will take effect if your area is blocked by the fire department; there is no actual government closure, but business may be slowed or halted.
It Has Been Years Since the Hurricane. If My Insurance Company Refuses to Pay the Full Value of My Claim, Can I File a Lawsuit?
Gulf Coast states each have an applicable statute of limitations dictating by when a claim must be filed. If your state has a limit of two years or less, then your claim will be time-barred and you will have lost the ability to file a claim. There is a provision, however, that permits the statute of limitations in a particular case to be "tolled." If you had extenuating circumstances, such as an illness or injury, that prevented you from filing your claim, then the time would not run while you were incapacitated. Even if you can’t bring a lawsuit, you may be still able to receive payment of a claim from your insurance company, especially if any statements by a company agent, employee or adjuster caused your delay.
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A History of Texas Hurricanes
A hurricane is just one type of tropical weather event. It is differentiated from a disturbance, tropical depression, and a tropical storm. Winds have to reach 74 mph or greater in order for the storm to be classified as a hurricane.
- Category 1: 74 to 95 mph
- Category 2: 96 to 110 mph
- Category 3: 111 to 130 mph
- Category 4: 131 to 155 mph
- Category 5: 156+ mph
If you have lived in Texas for any length of time, you are no stranger to the recent hurricanes that have rattled the region. As there are different categories of hurricanes and various types of tropical storms, they all cause different damage. Any kind of damage that a hurricane causes to your property is damage that you likely need coverage for. Texas' history is filled with hurricanes, but some recent ones are worth noting.
Designated by authorities as a “500-year-storm,” Hurricane Harvey made landfall on August 25, 2017. Areas all over the Gulf Coast were affected, but no areas were as devastated as Houston. All told, Hurricane Harvey dumped 33 trillion gallons of water in the United States over six days. Harris County alone received 1 trillion gallons in four days of rain, enough to keep Niagara Falls flowing for two weeks. Experts estimate that Harvey caused roughly $180 billion of damage, damaged over 200,000 homes and businesses, and killed as many as 50 people.
In 2010, Category 2 Hurricane Alex brought heavy rain and wind to South Texas. Because of the heavy hurricane season in 2008, most residents were seriously prepared for another disaster of this magnitude. This led to damages being minimal, but not non-existent. Since Hurricane Alex, Texas has seen storms such as Hermine, Tropical Depression Two and Tropical Storm Don. While none of these were as serious as the hurricanes that hit Texas and the Gulf Coast in 2008, all hurricanes and tropical storms cause at least some damage to residents of the affected area.
Hurricanes Edouard, Gustav & Ike
In the latter half of the 2008 hurricane season, Texas experienced three hurricanes that took place in August and early September. Tropical Storm Edouard hit Port Arthur with not quite enough intensity to be classified as a hurricane, but it still caused sufficient damage. Hurricane Gustav hit Eastern Texas and also crossed over into Louisiana. It also heavily hit Jamaica and surrounding territories. It peaked at Category 4 intensity and ended up causing a total of $6.6 billion in damages, although damage in the U.S. was about $4.3 billion of that total. Hurricane Ike struck Galveston on September 13, 2008 as a Category 2. In Texas alone, the damage was more than $30 billion.
In July 2008, Hurricane Dolly struck Texas and peaked at Category 2. It was the first of that years' hurricane season. It started near Cancun and Guatemala before moving to the Gulf of Mexico. When it landed in South Padre Island, Texas it was back to a Category 1. Many Texans lost power during the storm and suffered water damage from the 16 inches of rainfall. This particular hurricane caused just over $1 billion in damages.
This 2007 hurricane only reached Category 1 but still caused $50 million in damages. This hurricane struck High Island, TX at about 90 mph before it began to weaken and move to Georgia. Although winds were high, but not extreme, the rainfall caused minor flooding in the area. The highest precipitation was measured at 14.13 inches. Those who lived in Jefferson County, Chambers County and Orange County were affected.
In September 2005, the Gulf Coast was hit with the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane ever recorded. This was Hurricane Rita and was the most intense tropical cyclone ever to be recorded in that region. This particular hurricane reached Category 5 status at its worse point. This storm caused a total $12 billion in damages and that number could have been much higher if the storm directly struck Houston.
This kind of disaster would have disabled more than 25 percent of the United States' oil and fuel production. To put this hurricane in perspective, it was coming just three weeks after Hurricane Katrina wiped out many Gulf towns, primarily in Louisiana. Although Hurricane Katrina did not directly hit Texas, the state did feel the effects. As many as 220,000 hurricane evacuees relocated to Texas.
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When to Involve a Texas Hurricane Insurance Claim Attorney
As a homeowner or business owner who experienced property damage in a storm, you may wonder whether you need to involve an attorney. Every case is different, and whether you need an attorney's help will depend on your unique situation. However, we can offer a few helpful tips to know when you might need to seek counsel.
You might need a Texas hurricane insurance claim attorney if:
- Your property was severely damaged and repairs will be extensive and costly.
- The insurance adjuster does not agree with you about the extent of damage.
- Your insurance company says you aren't covered, but you think you should be.
- You're experiencing delays or are having trouble getting answers from the insurance company.
- Your claim is complex because it involves different types of hurricane damage (wind, flood, etc.)
While it would be nice to assume that your insurance company will pay your claim fairly and quickly, this rarely happens. Hurricanes are large and catastrophic events, and this means that insurance companies often deal with numerous claims at once. It is not in their best interests to simply pay claimants high settlements to repair their properties. Instead, they investigate (as they should) but may use underhanded and outright illegal tactics to try to underpay claims, retroactively cancel policies, or delay payments. These bad faith practices must be stopped.
An attorney can handle every part of your hurricane insurance claim, including all communication with the insurance company. An attorney can review your policy to see what's covered and can put the right amount of pressure to get your claim paid. If your insurance company won't cooperate or has already done you wrong, an attorney can file suit to seek the coverage that's rightfully yours.
The right Texas hurricane insurance claim lawyer can take care of everything while you focus on rebuilding.
Lawyers for First-Party Hurricane Insurance Claims
At Arnold & Itkin, we have helped people just like you get the coverage that is rightfully theirs after natural disasters such as hurricanes. Insurance companies have no right to deny you coverage if you are a faithful policyholder. You may need coverage for wind and water damage to your home or business. Whatever the case may be, you trust your insurance company to deliver. When they don't, our team is there to protect your interests.
Get in touch with our firm by calling (888) 493-1629 or using our short online form. Your insurance company has an obligation to fulfill their side of the deal. Let us help you get it.