Table of Contents
- Understanding Hurricane Claims: What Is Windstorm vs. Flood Insurance?
- What If the Insurance Company Delays or Doesn’t Pay?
- What Can I Do About My Hurricane Property Damage Claim?
- What Should I Do if I’ve Suffered Damage in a Hurricane?
- Verdicts and Settlements
- Preventing Injury Upon Returning to an Evacuated Home
- What Are Public Adjusters?
- Contact a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney
- Hurricane Insurance Claim FAQs
- Client Testimonials
- Helpful Links
Hire a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney
Download a copy of the “Tips for Speaking with Your Adjuster” checklist here.
As Texas residents, we at Pierce Skrabanek have experienced firsthand the damage and challenges hurricanes can bring. Our community is near and dear to our heart, and we aim to help as many people as we can to obtain the compensation they need after a hurricane. Sadly, many hurricane victims aren’t getting the compensation they need because insurance companies want them to settle for less, or their claims are delayed or denied.
If you have been affected by a major hurricane in your area, contact Pierce Skrabanek at (832) 690-7000 for advice or representation. Our lawyers can explain details about your own insurance coverage that you might not be aware of. We have the expertise needed to help victims access the compensation they need to rebuild and get their lives on track again.
Hurricanes can result in massive property damage, destroyed infrastructure, and gridlocked traffic. People often lose property they have worked their entire lives to obtain in a hurricane.
Besides property losses, victims also face complex insurance issues, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) claims, lost documents, and other legal difficulties. These can make it even more difficult to obtain the assistance needed after a crisis. We’re here to help.
Understanding Hurricane Claims: What Is Windstorm vs. Flood Insurance?
The first point to understand when it comes to hurricane insurance is the difference between windstorm coverage and flood coverage. Most Texans will already have windstorm coverage, but around 75-80% of residents don’t have specific flood coverage, even though flood issues often cause a vast portion of the damage.
Windstorm damage claims are covered by state law. This means that victims can recover money damages, penalties for bad faith insurance, attorney fees, and other losses. These are usually covered under laws like the Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act, or the Bad Faith portion of Texas insurance acts.
On the other hand, without flood insurance, you may be facing an uphill battle if you need to file a claim for rising water damage. Flood insurance claims are processed through federal courts, not state courts. Because of this, the same types of penalties and fees might not be available in a flood claim like they are in windstorm claims.
Basically, flood insurance companies are really “middlemen” for the federal government; a public insurance adjuster may come out to assess your property, but at the end of the day, the federal government is cutting you the check. And, without the same type of penalty mechanisms, flood claims might sit stagnant for a long time and may not always provide coverage for the fair value of the damage.
What if the Insurance Company Delays or Doesn’t Pay?
If an insurance company delays or fails to pay out on your claim, you may be entitled to additional compensation. Such follow-up action usually requires the assistance of a lawyer. A typical state code for hurricane claims might involve the following requirements and consequences for insurance companies in their adjustment of home damage claims:
- Insurance companies have 30 days to address your damages following a catastrophic hurricane
- They then have 30 days to pay once they determine you are due money for your damages
- If they don’t pay within this deadline, they can be liable for up to 50% of the amount of your damages, as well as standard attorney fees
- If the insurance company fails to pay within 60 days, they may be liable for up to two times the amount of your damages, plus attorney fees
Many people might not be aware of their rights when it comes to hurricane damage insurance claims. To avoid missing out on the justice you deserve, contact a lawyer who can help protect your interests.
What Can I Do About My Hurricane Property Damage Claim?
Regardless of whether you’re dealing with windstorm or flood damage claims, the point you need to understand is that insurance companies often don’t have your best interests at heart.
Even if you do have coverage, you may need an attorney to assist you with the insurance claims process. You might have coverage in the policy that you don’t know about or understand. Under Texas insurance law, if there is any ambiguity in your policy due to the insurance company’s drafting, it must be construed in your favor, not the insurance company’s.
They will do all they can to save on their end, and claims may be delayed or slow to process, as they often have thousands of claims to review after a disaster. So what can you do about it?
Working with a Texas hurricane property damage attorney can help you understand where your coverage gaps are, so you are fully compensated for your losses. Contact us today at (832) 690-7000 for a free, no-obligation consultation to help determine your legal rights and your next course of action.
For more information, listen to Paul Skrabanek discussing the legal impacts of hurricanes in a Ringler Radio Podcast.
What Should I Do if I’ve Suffered Damage in a Hurricane?
There are several steps you can take to help increase your chances of recovery after a hurricane. Follow these steps, especially if you don’t have flood insurance:
1) Document, document, document: Make sure all your property damage is thoroughly documented. Do NOT throw any physical property away unless you have documented it with several photos. You can never have enough pictures or videos. Be sure to document down to the inch, to avoid losing compensation for the true value of the damage.
2) Make a claim: If you have only windstorm coverage and no flood insurance, but have incurred flood damage, you should still file a claim. By law, the insurance company is obligated to send an adjuster out when a claim is filed; the adjuster may be able to assess the damage and make determinations you might not be trained to recognize.
3) Get a second opinion: If you have a friend or know someone who is an engineer or an expert on water-damaged houses, have them take a look at your damaged property. Insurance companies are also obligated to factor in their opinions when making an assessment, and it will typically go in your favor.
4) Seek legal assistance: If the insurance company denied your claim, or if the outcome wasn’t what you needed, seek the assistance of a hurricane property damage lawyer. An attorney can help review your claim as well as possible alternatives, so you get the recovery you need. It may also be highly beneficial to work with a hurricane lawyer at the outset of your claim, so they can guide you through the process and help with negotiations.
For additional details on what to do after a hurricane, see our Hurricane Insurance Claim Checklist (below).
Hurricane Insurance Claim Checklist
- Copy of most recent insurance policy
- List of items damaged
- Purchase receipts for lost or damaged personal property
- Estimates obtained for property damage
- Extensive photo and video documentation of all property damage (both before and after the hurricane)
- Receipts for temporary repair expenses
- Records of alternative living expenses (hotel and rental car invoices, etc.)
- Any questions you may have for an adjuster or lawyer
Verdicts and Settlements
At Pierce Skrabanek, we place top priority on obtaining justice for our clients. Our proven track record of verdicts and settlements speaks for itself. A few notable results for our clients include:
$117 Million Recovery for Catastrophic Accident Case
Attorney Mike Pierce served as a lead lawyer responsible for obtaining $117 million in recovery for an ambulance crash victim. The verdict is the single largest injury verdict in all of Louisiana history.
$11.6 Million Jury Verdict in a Work Injury Case
Our team obtained an $11.6 million jury verdict in a case involving a worker who lost most of his vision in one eye. The initial pretrial settlement offer was less than $300,000.
Preventing Injury Upon Returning to an Evacuated Home
If you’ve evacuated your home and have been away for a period of time, there are several precautionary measures you should take to avoid injury upon returning:
Don’t travel back home unless it’s truly safe
Just because the storm has passed doesn’t mean it’s immediately safe to travel home. Standing water can deteriorate roads and sweep vehicles away. Being in a car won’t protect you from floodwaters. Travel routes may also be blocked by downed power lines and trees.
You should only return home when it has been announced that it is safe to do so.
Exercise extreme caution upon re-entering your home
When it is safe to go home, try to arrive during daylight hours. Check for damage to power and gas lines, as well as structural damage. If your home has been flooded, wait to re-enter until a professional informs you it’s safe. If you hear any unusual noises, leave immediately, as these could be an indication that the structure is about to collapse.
If you need to use a flashlight, turn it on before entering any vacated building. The battery could create a spark and ignite any gas leaks present.
Minimize electrocution risks
Take extra precautions to avoid electrocution when dealing with a flooded home. NEVER turn power off or on or use any electrical appliances while standing in water. Also beware of underground or downed power lines that can electrically charge standing water. If you are in doubt, contact an electrician for assistance.
It is important to try and keep your phone charged during this time period—it will likely be a major part of your communication with loved ones and insurance agents. If your electricity is out, find creative ways to charge your phone, such as through your car or a portable charging device.
Clean safely and beware of mold
You should assume your home has mold if it has been flooded and closed up for several days. When cleaning, make sure everything is completely dried, and throw out any spoiled food. Be sure to document all damage before you begin the cleanup process.
People with lung conditions or who are immunocompromised should not enter buildings where mold may be present. Very young children should also not participate in disaster cleanup.
Be mindful of hot weather
Many hurricane survivors will be out of power for weeks, which also means extreme heat with potentially no air conditioning. Stay hydrated, and stop all activity if you are cleaning and notice you feel faint or tired.
Also, be cautious about carbon monoxide exposure and poisoning when using generators. Carbon monoxide poisoning is actually one of the leading causes of death after a hurricane.
Elderly people and children are particularly susceptible to heat, and should be relocated to hotels or other places if possible when heat is an issue.
Take care of your mental and emotional health
Stress and anxiety are common after a hurricane event. Don’t try to tough things out on your own—this can make things worse. You should also avoid any precarious clean-up situations if you feel mentally or emotionally shaken still. Talk to a loved one, call a disaster distress hotline, or speak with a counselor if you’re feeling overwhelmed.
What are Public Adjusters?
Public adjusters are professionals who represent the rights of the insured during the claims process. As licensed professionals, they are legally allowed to charge a percentage of the insurance settlement or payout (for instance, 10% of the award). They may also perform other functions like estimating and negotiating with insurance companies.
If possible, get a recommendation when selecting an adjuster — ask friends and family if they know a reliable one, or check with sources like the Better Business Bureau. Check their track record and credentials to be sure they are legitimate.
Working with a Public Adjuster vs. Hiring a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney
- Licensed to assist with hurricane damage insurance matters
- Can help estimate property damage
- Not always able to settle for full damage compensation
- May not be aware of alternative options
Hurricane Damage Lawyers
- Licensed and knowledgeable on a broad range of hurricane claims
- Can pursue alternative legal avenues for compensation
- Able to identify gaps and relevant details in a policy
- Can pick up where an adjuster’s assistance leaves off
Contact a Hurricane Property Damage Attorney
We’ve seen the widespread damage and chaos that hurricanes can bring about. We’ve also seen how, after such a catastrophic event, the community pulls together to help one another rebuild. As Houston residents and leaders in the Texas legal community, we are doing our part to ensure the rebuilding can happen.
At Pierce Skrabanek, we’re making ourselves available to help local residents understand what they can do to recover after a hurricane. Contact us at (832) 690-7000 for a free consultation where we can address any questions, inquiries, or concerns you may have. We have experience dealing with insurance companies and adjusters after major hurricanes and other disasters, so that victims can move forward with their lives.
Hurricane Insurance Claim FAQs
The answer to this question depends on many factors, including the person’s individual coverage plan. As mentioned, a majority of Texas residents don’t have any form of flood coverage, regardless of their overall policies.
For this reason, it is important to enlist the assistance of as many professionals as you can, including adjusters and lawyers who can assess your claim. Pursuing a claim for flood damage can be difficult without the guidance of those who are trained to handle such matters.
Water and flood damage can be caused by a wide range of different factors. Assessing property damage can be difficult, especially if the wreckage is extensive. For instance, flooding may worsen with the initial damage caused by wind factors. In other cases, flooding can be attributed to entirely distinct causes, such as the local government’s decisions regarding levees and dams.
If you are unsure of how the damage played out in your home, the best thing to do is to initiate a claim, so that you can begin the process of having your property reviewed for damage. Many cases walk a thin line between windstorm and flood classifications, so it’s best to hire a lawyer who can accurately assess your case and fight for your recovery.
You should consider filing a claim as soon as possible once you are able to do so. You may be dealing with important filing deadlines, which can affect your ability to recover damages for your property.
Also, as mentioned, even when you do file, you may experience delays in the process, so it’s best not to wait. Before you file, be sure to prepare your documentation and photo/video evidence, as listed above.
Experiencing a catastrophic hurricane can be traumatizing, and you might not know where to begin. Contacting a lawyer early on can help set you on the right path from the outset. A qualified hurricane lawyer can help:
- Prepare and organize documentation for your claim
- Negotiate and communicate with insurance companies and adjusters
- Review your policy to maximize the amount of recovery you obtain
- Pursue the necessary legal action if your case is denied or unduly delayed
At Pierce Skrabanek, we are passionate about assisting local residents in putting their lives back together after a natural disaster. These are our own neighbors and communities we’re working for, and we want to see that everyone is fully accounted for.
“When a large insurance company refused to even offer a settlement after deciding not to pay on UIM coverage I had been paying on for years, we were set to go to trial in March 2018. As a last-ditch effort to not have to go to trial, we met for mediation in February. After several hours of fierce negotiations of which my husband & I were present for, we reached a satisfactory settlement. We watched, participated & listened to Paul fight for a settlement which we could be happy with. Just this month, the case has been put to rest.”
“I found Mr. Skrabanek to be very trustworthy, creditable, and genuinely concerned about my well being while I was going through this very difficult process. He showed constant concerns of me being completely satisfied before making any final decisions, as well as ensuring that I was well informed of all my options. He has a way of getting the job done while making you know that what you think or feel always matters.”
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