The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (TCAIS) released the following in response to comments made today by John Sharp, head of the Governor’s Commission to Rebuild Texas, regarding private insurance claims in connection with Hurricane Harvey. The statement can be attributed to Beaman Floyd, executive director of the Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions, which represents major homeowners insurance companies doing business in Texas (Allstate, Farmers, Nationwide, State Farm and USAA):
“Even before Hurricane Harvey finished impacting Texas, homeowners insurance companies brought in thousands of adjusters to begin assessing damage and to file and pay wind damage and automobile loss claims so that Texans could start their recovery. Standard homeowners and renters insurance does not cover flood damage. Flood coverage is covered by a separate policy primarily provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program. Insurance company representatives in Texas are working around the clock to help their customers understand their policy coverage and guide them to the right resources to get disaster assistance.”
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The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions (TCAIS) is an alliance of insurance providers and trade organizations committed to working with elected officials, the media and the public to find public policy solutions that promote a competitive insurance marketplace that maximizes benefits for buyers and sellers of insurance. TCAIS members include Allstate, Farmers, Nationwide, State Farm and USAA. You can find TCAIS at www.tcais.org or follow TCAIS on Facebook (/tcais) or Twitter (@tcais).
CONTACT: Kirsten Voinis, (512) 922-7141 or [email protected]
Reform legislation passed in the last legislative session (HB 1774) goes into effect on September 1. Contrary to some erroneous reports and inaccurate social media posts, the new law does not bar access to the courts nor does it prevent consumers from retaining legal counsel. Under the new property litigation law:
- Neither the process for filing a claim nor the insurer’s handling of a claim has changed.
- Consumers still have all legal remedies available under the consumer protection laws in the event an insurer engages in bad faith conduct.
- The Texas Department of Insurance is available to handle any complaints about insurers.
- The new law does not take away any right to sue and does not diminish any cause of action that a person has against an insurance company.
- The new law will change punitive interest on companies from 18% to 10%. Insureds who prevail in a suit will be able to recover punitive interest under HB1774. The level of interest enacted in HB 1774 is currently twice the normal judgement interest rate set in the Texas Finance Code. This balancing change preserves a strong punitive interest rate to discourage slow payment by insurers while not creating an incentive for unscrupulous lawyers to slow down the claims and legal process to pad recoveries.
- The new law will require notice be given to companies by insureds before filing suit, to give companies and customers a chance to communicate and potentially come to an agreement prior to litigation. The pre lawsuit notice is effective for all “actions filed on and after the effective date, which is September 1, 2017.” Any lawsuit filed after September 1, 2017, would be governed by the new law.
Texans should contact their insurance companies directly to file claims, work with your adjuster to identify all damages and coverages, and resolve your claim quickly. Texans should also seek information from the Texas Department of Insurance and other official sources. If consumers believe that an insurer is not meeting the terms of the policy, they should know that they have the right to take legal action, including filing suit.
The thoughts and prayers of the Texas Coalition of Affordable Insurance Solutions and our member companies are with Texans devastated by Hurricane Harvey.
In the aftermath of the storm, Texans should take the following steps to secure the safety of themselves and their property:
- Above all, secure the safety of yourself and your family – saving or protecting your property is not worth risking lives.
- If you must evacuate – and can do so safely – gather and take important documents that will help with your recovery, such as insurance policies, mortgage documents and auto titles.
- Take pictures of your property damage – inside and out – if it is safe to do so.
- If you do suffer damage, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. For help with company information, the Texas Department of Insurance has a Company Lookup or you can call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439.
- For additional resources on recovery after a storm, TDI provides valuable information and resources.
Even as Hurricane Harvey continues to impact the state, reports of unscrupulous actions by some lawyers, adjustors, contractors and others already are being reported. The Texas Legislature in recent years has strengthened consumer protections to safeguard Texans impacted by catastrophe from being victimized by opportunists who would prevent consumers from getting their insurance claims adjusted and settled as fairly and quickly as possible. See joint statement on effects of HB 1774.
As Texans begin to rebuild, they also should be on alert for fraud, from price gouging to shoddy repairs to contractors who abscond with money without providing repairs. To report suspected insurance fraud, call TDI’s Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439.
TDI offers these tips when hiring a contractor for home repairs:
- Call your insurance company first. Your insurance company can give you advice on what repairs should cost.
- Use local companies. Make sure to check their references and phone numbers.
- Get written estimates. These should be on the company’s letterhead with clear contact information.
- Get more than one bid. This will help you decide which offers are legitimate and which may be too high or too good to be true.
- Do not pay for repairs up front. Good contractors will typically require a partial payment up front to get started, but your final payment should be made after the job is finished.
- If you feel pressured or threatened, call the police.