03 Sep Legal Advice – Harvey Insurance Claim Hurdles
For those of you who sustained damages during Hurricane Harvey, there can be several hurdles you face in recovering under any applicable insurance claims. Each circumstance is different, but there are some general issues that most people face when dealing with these claims:
Thanks to our family and company attorneys for allowing us to share this.
Their contact information is at the end.
1. Dealing with your insurer and its adjuster(s)
- Document your claimQuick Overview: You will be required to document and inventory your losses.
To Do: Make sure you photograph and or video all damaged property (photographs are better unless your video can be stopped frame by frame clearly). If you are working to remove water damage from your home or business, take the photographs as you remove items, so you do not miss any damaged property. Make sure the pictures document how high the water level was in your home or business because there may be limitations on how much sheetrock will be covered depending on water depth.
As you inventory your property damages, the back‐up and support will be critical. Any appliances should be photographed with their model and serial numbers.
- What insurance applies?Quick Overview: Home and business property insurance generally include coverage for windstorm damage, but exclude coverage for flood damage. Typically, you will need evidence which will afford a reasonable basis for estimating the amount of damage or the proportionate part of damage caused by a risk covered by the insurance policy (windstorm vs. flood).
To Do: Document any and all circumstantial evidence of causation (which includes eyewitnesses, and anyone who knows something about the arrival and timing of winds, tornadoes, and high water to a neighborhood).
- Actual Cash Value versus Replacement ValueQuick Overview: Depending on the insurance you have, your recovery may be actual cash value versus replacement value (actual cash value may require depreciation of the items you have that are damaged). Also, your policy may require actual replacement of the property to trigger payment.
To Do: Have all insurance policies and declaration pages available to review what types of damages are recoverable and how long you have to replace the damaged items. Policies may allow for actual cash value, and then when you replace it, pay the difference.
- Disagreement with your Insurer or Adjusters
Quick Overview: If you disagree with the valuation of damages by your insurer or its adjuster,you have options.
To Do: Depending on the dispute, your contractor (if experienced with insurance claims) may be able to assist you with the claim. Some policies allow for an appraisal process to deal with disputes
over property values, but before you invoke that option or consent to that option – make sure you are aware of the process and the limitations it may place on your claim. Please contact us with specific questions over disputes with your insurer, so we may evaluate your options with you.
2. Dealing with contractors
A. Background check – Beware of the unscrupulous contractor. Storm chasers may be quick to arrive, but local contractors with significant references are better. Before engaging any contractor make sure the contractor is properly bonded, insured and is a reputable contractor. To the extent your contractor has public adjuster(s) that work for them, they may be useful in assisting with the claims process, so ask them about their experience in dealing with insurance claims.
B. What is in your contract? – READ ANY DOCUMENT BEFORE YOU SIGN IT. Please contact us with specific questions about any contract questions, so we may evaluate your options with you.
Payment terms – be wary of any contractor requiring an unreasonable amount of money for down payment.
Contingency – make sure any agreement that is contingent upon payment by your insurance is clear as to what obligations you and the contractor may have.
Scope of work – ensure that the scope of work is proper (is it enough work, too much work, not enough work?)
3. Dealing with FEMA
- On August 25, 2017, a Major Disaster Declaration was issued for 18 counties, including Harris, Galveston, and Fort Bend Counties with $23,513,955.04 approved for the Individual & Household Program.
- Frequently Asked Questions (select FAQs from https://www.fema.gov/national‐flood‐insurance‐ program):
a. My home or business just flooded, what should I do?
i. Information on how to file a claim can be found online at
ii. If you receive a denial for all or part of your flood insurance claim or are unsatisfied with the dollar amount being offered for the flood‐loss repairs or replacements, you can find information on the steps to take here: https://www.fema.gov/flood‐claim‐appeals‐and‐guidance.
b. How can I contact FEMA?
i. FEMA Region VI covers Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Arkansas, and New Mexico. Its phone number is 940‐898‐5399.
c. I don’t have access to a computer, how can I apply for assistance?
i. If you download the FEMA app to your smart phone, you can apply for assistance through the app (via DisasterAssistance.gov).
a. Visit https://www.fema.gov/disaster/4332 to apply for assistance and for information regarding: (1) controlling rumors and other misinformation, (2) additional information resources, (3) the National Flood Insurance Program, (4) financial assistance (updated every 24 hours), and (5) links to the Office of the Governor and Texas Division of Emergency Management (TDEM).
Please keep in mind that this is an overview. There are many different types of claim situations that you may face over the coming days, weeks and months, each with their own unique issues. Significant decisions should be made with the advice of a professional to ensure that your objectives are met. Please call our office to further discuss your issues and options.