Cleaning Up Your Contents After a Hurricane

‘Tis the season to be jolly and deck the halls with Christmas joy. Some may find that difficult this year as they are still in the middle of cleanup and restoration as a result of the 2017 Hurricane Season. This season was exceptionally tough on folks in Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.

Some of the issues in Texas involve the damage and contamination caused by the “black” water that destroyed their contents. CAT adjusters flooded the area immediately with the logic and advice that these items might be cleaned, particularly the pots, pans, dishes and glassware. We came across an article actually written by a cleaning company that stated the only thing that could be cleaned to a safe usable level after this contamination is the glassware. This coming from a company who earns its’ living cleaning items. They are referring to contents that were sitting in flood waters, waters contaminated by sewage and chemicals.

If you have ever personally experienced a flood such as the one caused by Hurricane Harvey, one thing you will remember for a long time is the smell. One whiff of this and there’s no way you would agree to the cleaning of the pots, pans, dishes or glassware. We have insurance to replace these items when damaged. This would certainly be considered damage and not something you can just wash off and continue to use. The insurance companies would like for you to clean and disinfect these items, they say just immerse these items in boiling water for 10 minutes to disinfect and sanitize. We say I don’t think so!

In Florida, those affected by Hurricane Irma saw much different damage from powerful winds rather than flood. Those folks are battling the storm created opening language in the policies and other issues related to wind. However, their biggest battle has been the stortage of insurance adjusters created by the back-to-back storms. Some three months after the storm and some policyholders have still not seen an adjuster and some still haven’t received a penny from their insurance company. Demolition and repairs are already underway because they must protect their property from further damage while they wait for their claim to be handled. This is a struggle since there is no definite timeline on the payment of the insurance proceeds. Fortunately, some contractors have begun work knowing that payment is going to be delayed but have still been willing to help these people out.

If you find yourself in need of help or thinking that maybe your claim has come up short, it is easy to find professional help. A simple review of your claim and/or estimate by a licensed public adjuster may shed some light on the process and where those shortfalls are and help you reach full resolution concerning your claim.

Shortage of Insurance Adjusters in Wake of Hurricanes Harvey and Irma

Hurricane season is at its peak and folks are still in recovery mode following the devastation caused by Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. Now, there appears to be a shortage of insurance adjusters, especially in Florida where basically policyholders are having to wait because the insurance adjusters are all in Houston because Harvey was the first to hit.

Insurance companies are advertising for adjusters and trying to build up their rosters to cover the areas hit the hardest. Simply put, they are using anyone with a pulse to help out because of the high volume of claims being reported right now. Property owners are the ones who will be left on the short end of the stick as inspections are being performed by people who just don’t have the experience or expertise to properly inspect and estimate the claim. This leaves huge holes in the estimate, huge discrepancies in the claim value, and makes it even more important for the property owners to hire their own claim professional and have an expert on their side.

There are lots of numbers and terms to get through when trying to figure out how much your insurance company is going to pay for your storm damage. Many times, the age, whether it can be repaired, and/or possibly discontinued materials will lead to complete coverage of the damages. In the claim estimates, most discrepancies arise because there are covered components missing in the initial insurance estimate. While is it nice to get your insurance check and begin the repairs, don’t rush to the finish line!

Your insurance carrier has a claim professional representing them – do you? Even if the insurance adjuster is an independent third party, they were still contracted by and work for the insurance company. Insurance companies would further lead you to believe that you, the policyholder, must get your own estimates to help in the negotiation of the claim. You are not an expert. You should hire someone to represent your side in the claim negotiation process.

Don’t be a victim twice, seek professional help with your claim.

https://www.marketplace.org/2017/09/14/business/hurricanes-irma-and-harvey-are-causing-insurance-adjuster-shortage

 

Blue Tarp Law Taking Effect in Texas September 1, 2017

With the pounding South Texas has taken for days now thanks to Hurricane Harvey, people are asking how the Blue Tarp Bill (HB 1774), which goes into effect September 1, 2017, is going to impact these claims.

Consumers and business property owners need to be aware that written “notice” of a claim must be sent to the insurer prior to September 1, 2017 to take advantage of the existing 18% interest rate for unlawfully delayed claims. However, this applies to wind claims, not flood claims.

For a better explanation of the changes and how it may affect you or those impacted by Hurricane Harvey, see more at the following.

Hurricane Harvey Insurance Claims Misinformation

 

The Hail Storm Bill (Blue Tarp Bill) SB10 Pending in Texas

Lots of news coming from Texas this week as the battle in Austin continues over the Hail Storm Bill (Blue Tarp Bill) (SB 10). Big insurance companies are the only beneficiary of passage of this bill.

“The easiest and most effective way to make more money is to increase premiums, to pay less on any claim, and to kill all the lawyers.” by Dale F. Kelly, Corpus Christi (Texas Trial Lawyers Association)

“Businesses can’t afford this brand of ‘tort reform’.” By David Loeb, Corpus Christi (Texas Trial Lawyers Association)

Consumers and business property owners need to be aware of what is going on and let your voices be heard before it is too late.

 http://www.caller.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/04/24/insurers-surviving-lawyers-just-fine-thanks/100839056/?platform=hootsuite

http://www.caller.com/story/opinion/readers/2017/04/25/businesses-cant-afford-brand-tort-reform/100884344/?platform=hootsuite

Use of Drones for Property Damage Insurance Claims Inspections

The adults are getting in on all the fun when it comes to personal drones. It was only a matter of time before the insurance industry found them useful too when assessing property damage insurance claims. From surveying the damages caused by storms, to inspecting roofs, to taking an inventory on insured crops, the drone has found its place in the business.

Allstate Insurance Company is using drones in Texas to conduct home inspections in the hail swaths. This is an effort to quickly handle more claims. Their plan is to compare the photographs taken by the drones to those already taken by field adjusters on the ground. Their intent is to free up more time for the adjusters to take care of other aspects of the claim all the while staying safer by not climbing ladders and onto roofs. Farmers Insurance says “we’ll get a faster inspection.” They say “it could take an adjuster a few hours to inspect this roof where a drone could do it in 20 minutes.”

drones for property damage inspections
State Farm testing drones for property damage inspections.

Is this truly what is best for the policyholder, a faster inspection? And will this savings in time for the insurance company result in lower premiums for the policyholders? I think we all know the answer to that question.  Nothing can replace the human eye when it comes to a thorough inspection of storm caused damage, especially hail damage. A lot of times, it is difficult to depict the damage from photographs taken by an adjuster who is actually on the roof. I can’t imagine that photographs taken using a drone would make this anything but more difficult.

inspects hail damage
Ron Crow, a FEMA public assistance officer inspects hail damage by a hail core spun off by a tornado on May 10. Photo by Win Henderson

A spokesperson from the Insurance Council of Texas believes that “the ladder might soon be a thing of the past.” Just another reason the policyholder is going to require the services of a licensed public adjuster to get a thorough inspection and estimate of the damages. If your insurance adjuster isn’t going to get on the roof, your public adjuster definitely is.

http://fortune.com/2016/09/02/allstate-drone-home-inspection-insurance/

http://www.star-telegram.com/news/local/community/fort-worth/article142863789.html

 

Insurance Companies Love UPPA (Unauthorized Practice of Public Adjusting)

The unauthorized practice of public adjusting (“UPPA”) is alive and well. From those contractors and roofers who straight up tell the policyholder they don’t need the help of a public adjuster to those husband/wife teams where one is the public adjuster and the other is a contractor (who are they kidding). There is a reason these practices are unethical and in some states against the law — it protects the policyholder from someone with an obvious conflict of interest and who is not qualified to give a thorough opinion. UPPA is a vehicle for fraud and takes advantage of the insured when they are most vulnerable. Far worse is when the perpetrator leaves the property owner in worse condition than before the damages occurred, particularly when these insureds are the elderly and/or non-English speaking.

Colorado Springs hail storm 2016

Some public adjusters who began their careers on the insurance side know firsthand about the love insurance companies have for UPPA, and how they even encourage it. Lots of insurance adjusters are instructed by their company to make sure the policyholder’s contractor is present for the inspection. This is because they KNOW that the contractor is not allowed to participate in the negotiation. Why would that make any sense? Well, the insurance companies want the contractor to be present for the inspection and meeting with the insured so that they can then tell the property owner “sure, take that and we can get it done for that.” If the policyholder feels confident they can get the work performed for the amount the insurance company is offering, then good deal, right? No, not good deal. What about other damages that have occurred that the contractor isn’t worried about and neither is the insurance adjuster? Your public adjuster would make sure that ALL damages sustained and covered by the policy are addressed.

Fort Worth, Texas commercial flat roof with hail damage.

There is a reason that one must be licensed to handle public adjusting. These claim professionals are regulated and require proper training and certification to be licensed to negotiate a claim on behalf of the policyholder. They have no affiliation with an insurance company whatsoever and therefore work independently solely for the insured, alleviating the conflict of interest when one tries to negotiate on behalf of both sides, which quite frankly cannot happen. You must pick a side and advocate for that side. In other words, if you are wearing an Allstate shirt then you are advocating for Allstate. A public adjuster is licensed and bonded and requires adequate training and certification. They are your exclusive representative and, with their experience and knowledge, they are more likely to obtain a favorable settlement of your claim.

The difference between using a licensed public adjuster and doing it alone.

With so many out there preaching that you don’t need a public adjuster or that a public adjuster may not be your best choice, it leaves one to wonder why do I need a public adjuster after all? The insurance company is like any other business. They are going to attempt to get out as cheaply as they can. The public adjuster is there for you to make sure that the insurance company pays what is owed on the claim based on the coverage you have paid for.

After the storm.

You pay a premium for this coverage and it only makes sense that you be compensated accordingly. It makes sense to consult with or hire a public adjuster to make sure the claim is handled properly. Only a public adjuster or attorney are legally licensed to represent you in the negotiation of your claim with the insurance company.

You Do the Math – The Push for a Legislative Remedy in Texas

A recent article by the Fort Worth Star-Telegram concerning SB10 proposing constraints on litigation surrounding hail claims in Texas includes some interesting numbers. According to the data contained in the article, there were nearly 400,000 hail claims filed in Texas in 2015 which resulted in 9,910 lawsuits. You do the math – that is a mere 2.4775%.

Based on these numbers, do we really need any legislative remedy?

The insurance companies want you to believe the claims that result in litigation are the cause of higher premiums and/or cancellations. Some of those companies even use the threat of pulling out of the state completely which they say would also result in an increase in premiums and narrow the pool of insurers to choose from.

Senate Bill 10 is not good for the Texas consumer and is yet another attempt at placing constraints on the consumer when it comes to being paid properly on a claim. Although more streamlined than previous attempts, SB 10 is still too broad and does nothing more than help pad the insurance industry’s pockets.

http://www.star-telegram.com/opinion/editorials/article136097893.html#storylink%3Dcpy

http://www.bizjournals.com/austin/news/2017/02/13/texas-lawmakers-file-bill-that-takes-aim-at.html

Looking to Place Limits on Hail Storm Litigation in Texas

Hail Storm Senate Bill 10 pending in Texas as a result of complaints and lawsuits filed following the major hail storms across South Texas. Texas Watch group is responding and calls these storm bills “tornadoes that are bearing down on every property owner in this state.” The passage of these types of bills would result in the policyholder being limited to whatever the insurance company says is right or good.

Read more at http://kxan.com/2017/02/14/hail-storm-bill-could-make-it-harder-to-sue-insurance-companies/

Hiring a Qualified Property Damage Insurance Claim Attorney

“He who represents himself has a fool for a client.” — Abraham Lincoln

This phrase remains as applicable today as it was 200 years ago when said. Mostly attributable to Abraham Lincoln, the above quote may have had earlier origins. In the context of our famous President, who was also a lawyer, he means that a lawyer should not represent himself or herself in court. The overriding principle is the loss of objectivity, the inability to see both sides of the equation, and, worse, to be consumed with punishing a perceived wrong.

However, the above quote also has universal application. Stated alone, you are taken more seriously when qualified people speak for you. Fundamentally, it relates a perception that you have other people on your side, which is important because it often feels like a David v. Goliath situation. Also, it sends a message that you are willing to take this matter further if needed.
In litigation, a qualified attorney is a necessity. Your chances of being taken seriously without are slim to none. Interview as many as possible and retain the one who has the factual and legal capacity to understand the claim, has the resources and time to do so, and most importantly, cares about you as a client.
While the right to represent oneself is provided for in both civil and criminal proceedings, legal matters can be complex and quite the challenge for someone with no formal education or training in the law. We are all human and humans have emotions. Emotions can cloud even the best of judgment, especially when you are talking about things of financial nature. When personally invested, emotions combined with the complexities of the situation make it obvious that professional help is necessary.
Another layer to personal representation to consider is, whether you’re hiring a property damage attorney or a licensed public adjuster, the experts are an important piece of the puzzle. For litigation purposes, anything outside of “common knowledge” requires the hiring of an expert. Specialists and/or experts have one thing certain in common, years of education and training in their area of expertise that can be used objectively in the given situation.
Representing oneself is likely to end badly. Just because you have the time to handle a complicated property damage claim on your own absolutely doesn’t mean that you should. Attorneys who handle these types of cases work on a contingency fee which means you have no out of pocket expenses and they get paid when the case is settled. So, if you aren’t paying anything out of pocket, then why wouldn’t you hire an experienced attorney to handle the matter for you?

Storm Damaged South Suffers Weekend Full of Devastating Tornadoes

The death toll continues to climb as we emerge from a weekend filled with severe weather and tornadoes. From Mississippi to Georgia, storms pounded the area with heavy rain, high winds, and one of the worst tornado outbreaks seen. A state of emergency has been issued in Georgia and Mississippi as authorities report at least 15 deaths in Georgia alone.

weather.com – severe storms hit Georgia

Florida apparently was not spared from the devastation as tornado rips through Palm Beach damaging school district and other properties. The homes and properties there are generally built to sustain hurricane force winds, but that didn’t protect them from these severe storms.

wptv.com – schools closed in Palm Beach neighborhood

If you find yourself in a situation like this, there is help. Find a public adjuster or other claim professional near you to handle your insurance claim. You have enough to worry about without the added burden of insurance.