Hurricane Harvey victims have a tough road ahead of them.
And it won’t get much easier, even with insurance.
Apparently many lawyers are urging victims to file their homeowners’ insurance claims before Friday, September 1, when a controversial new law goes into effect.
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House Bill 1774 is meant to reduce the number of lawsuits against insurance companies who don’t pay off claims for weather-related lawsuits, including damage or loss of property due to “forces of nature” (hurricanes, wind, hail, snow or rainstorms).
So what’s the issue?
If you do have to sue your insurance company and win, the penalty interest rate the insurance company will owe you drops from 18% to 10%. Additionally, lawyers must give insurance companies a heads up about future lawsuits, giving them more time to mount a defense.
It does require insurance companies pay for the plaintiff’s legal fees as long, but only if the homeowner has 80% accuracy in depicting the damage done to their home — something that may be tough to prove.
Basically the law is making it easier for insurance companies to flake on their payouts to policy holders.
One lawyer from the Texas Trial Lawyers Association, Craig Eiland, says if homeowners file before Friday, they will not be subject to the new law, even if their lawsuit comes later.
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Important note: flood insurance claims won’t be covered by this new law.
According to an Insurance Information Institute survey, just about 15% of homes in Harris County, Texas even have flood insurance. And if you did purchase flood insurance, most likely through the National Flood Insurance Program, it will be exempt from state laws.
The Texas Trial Lawyers Association also confirmed the new law won’t affect much in terms of flooding, though if you have other damage, it wouldn’t hurt to file before Friday.
Loretta Worters, an exec with the Insurance Information Institute, recommends at least reaching out to your insurance agent to let them know of storm damage to your home, vehicle, etc.
Also, be sure to beware of spam insurance calls!
Stay safe out there!
We will continue to keep the victims of Hurricane Harvey in our thoughts during this difficult time.