Hurricane Katrina was one of the most catastrophic weather events in the last fifty years. In the wake of that disaster, individual homeowners filed about 61 percent of property damage claims. But these homeowners only received 39 percent of insurance payouts. Something was out of balance here.
This contrasts starkly with the statement insurance companies often broadcast, which is that 97 percent of Hurricane Katrina-related property damage claims were paid within six months. The claim might have been marked “paid,” but whether or not the payout covered the cost of recovery is another story. Many affected homeowners were forced to make up the difference between their insurance payout and the cost of recovery out of pocket.
At Williams Hart & Boundas, our Houston first-party insurance lawyers work hard to ensure that insurance companies treat all their customers fairly. Our attorneys appeal rubber-stamp paid or denied determinations and low-ball settlement offers that don’t fulfill an insurance company’s legal and financial obligations.
Here are 5 tips to get the most out of your insurance policy and navigate your road to recovery.
Assume the Worst
Many people assume that their monthly insurance payments are a bit like monthly utility payments. If customers pay their light bills every month, the company will stand by them, and work to restore power in emergencies.
Navigating insurance policies can be far more challenging. Different regulations apply to insurance companies and no matter how many on-time payments policyholders make, insurance companies may deny their claims.
This means that before you fill out a claim form it’s best to assume the worst. Do not expect the insurance company to immediately pay your claim or even investigate it properly. It will take the attention and persistence of the property owner, possibly with the partnership of legal counsel, to see their claim is processed and paid out properly.
Documentation is a critical part of filing a successful claim. Needed documents usually include documentation of the damage as well as financial documents regarding the property’s value and insurance coverage.
Most Texas storm damage claims are wind or water damage claims. Damage documentation should include weather information for that ZIP code and the damage date. This information is usually available on the internet. Be sure and use reliable sources, like NOAA, as opposed to TV news stories about alarming storm damage in your area.
Insurance company adjusters should already have all the financial and policy documents they need. However, as mentioned above, policyholders cannot rely on insurance investigators to include everything that might help your claim. It is important to maintain a file containing all research and communications relating to the property damage.
Photos and video documentation should begin as soon as storm clouds gather. Take lots of “before” pictures before the storm hits to compare with “after” pictures of the damage. Be sure to include pictures from different angles. Insurance adjusters often claim that the picture was unclear or taken from a poor angle.
If possible, photograph your neighbor’s homes as well. If the houses in your neighborhood sustained widespread damage, it’s easier for a Houston first-party insurance lawyer to refute the argument that the homeowner exaggerated the damage.
As hard as it might be to stay the course persistence pays off. If the property owner loses interest in the claim, your adjuster may loses interest in the claim as well. Maintaining a consistent schedule of communication with insurance adjusters and the insurance company is important after major storm damage.
When the next steps seem unclear, the aid of a legal advocate can provide the additional attention to the claim needed for a successful payout. Our attorneys step into demand an answer from insurance companies and to argue for fair treatment. We take on the demands of deadlines and filling out paperwork for our policyholders. It’s very important for homeowners to know their rights and build a team dedicated to their success. Click here to learn more about these rights.
Ask a Houston First-Party Insurance Lawyer to Evaluate Your Case
If you follow all these tips and the adjuster still denies your claim, or offers to settle it for less than full value, a lawyer should review your case. There’s a good chance you may have a bad faith insurance claim.
Legally, insurance companies have a duty to quickly, thoroughly, and transparently evaluate claims. If they do all these things, and the homeowner has participated in the process as outlined above, there’s usually no reason for an adjuster to deny a claim. Our legal team is here to help you if your insurance company refuses to do so.
In the law, laying the groundwork often leads to a successful result. For a free consultation with an experienced first-party insurance lawyer in Houston, contact Williams Hart & Boundas LLP. The sooner you reach out to us, the sooner we start working for you.