Recent state snow and ice storms that left Austin under a winter storm warning have finally passed, but the property damage to your home or business has not.
If you are still struggling with an insurer to settle your property damage claim, an Austin lawyer familiar with insurance companies denying winter weather claims might be able to help you. Let one of our bad faith insurance attorneys help in your case.
Legislation Makes it Harder to File Weather-Related Claims
Damage claims have become more challenging to resolve after a 2017 legislation was enacted to prevent consumer fraud. Texas Insurance Code 542A ramps up the paperwork property owners must provide to insurers and reduces penalties against insurers who do not reasonably handle damage claims. These claims are not isolated to the recent winter storm damages affecting Austin but encompass all property lost or damaged by forces of nature, such as hurricanes, floods, wildfires, earthquakes, lightning, rain, ice and snow, hail, and wind.
Original Focus to Prevent Insurers’ Unfair Settlement Practices
Before adding provisions affecting property owners’ duties to insurance companies, Chapter 542.003 prescribed language meant to stop insurers from unfair dealings with those they insure. The law defines acts that constitute unfair practices by insurers as the following:
- Withholding important provisions concerning a policy or damage claim
- Failing to act promptly to resolve claims
- Placing no reasonable standards in place to investigate or resolve claims
- If the insurer appears to be liable, no good faith effort to resolve claim
- Offering less in settlement of claims than property owners recover in lawsuits they had no choice but to file
These practices are not exhaustive. Fortunately, an experienced local attorney could review a client’s interactions with an insurer and take appropriate actions.
Enhanced Notice Requirements
After the 2017 amendment to Chapter 542A, any actions brought against insurers for recent ice storm damage or any acts of nature claims require property owners to give insurers at least 61 days’ notice before they can file lawsuits on their claims. The requirements are strict and require the property owner to offer details about what the insurer did or failed to do that led to the suit, the dollar amount owed on the claim, and the amount of attorneys’ fees, within reason, owed when the notice is submitted.
The property owner making the claim must calculate attorney’s fees based on the number of hours the attorney worked. If the calculation is inaccurate, property owners may not recover all their legal costs from the insurer.
Failure to File Notice
If the property owner fails to file notice with the insurer, the court usually denies the lawsuit. The court may prohibit the plaintiff from recovering any attorneys’ fees from the defendant beginning on the date the defendant files the pleading. After filing an answer to the plaintiff’s lawsuit, the defendant has thirty days to plead and prove lack of notice. An Austin attorney who understands the specific requirements for winter weather insurance claims could assist in the process.
Insurance Policies are Not One Size Fits All
Because insurance policies are not standardized, policyholders should understand their coverage. For instance, some policies offer replacement value, and some offer the depreciated value of the structure or item. Some factor in a risk that a roof will collapse under snow and ice, and some do not. Some allow for food spoilage from power outages, and some do not. If in doubt about policy coverage, a local insurance lawyer could explain in detail exactly what a client’s policy covers.
Contact an Austin Attorney if Your Winter Weather Insurance Claim Has Been Denied
The recent winter storms were devastating to Austin residents, but now that repairs are under way, property insurance should cover your losses while the storms fade to a bad memory.
However, if your insurance claim due to winter weather is denied in Austin, we may be able to help. Dedicated attorneys understand the law’s recent changes and could fight for your right to be compensated. Call today for your initial consultation.