News Room

Hurricane Insurance Claims

Written on behalf of Brian S. Kabateck

For many people, having insurance brings them a peace of mind, knowing that if disaster were to strike, they have insurance to help them out. Insurance companies have the responsibility to provide compensation on any property damage. Many homeowners are reported to not own any natural disaster insurance, such as flood, fire, and earthquake, and when any of these occur, the last thing on consumers’ mind is insurance. It is important to understand how important it is to be covered and know your rights when it comes to dealing with insurance companies when something like this occurs. Hurricane Harvey tested, and will continue to test, the resiliency of Texas’ infrastructure and goodwill. After Harvey came two more hurricanes, Irma and Maria, which contributed to the terrible loss of homes for many residents.

In 1979, the California Supreme Court ruled that insurance companies have a duty to act in good faith toward customers, and when they act in “bad faith” they can be held responsible in a court of law. Since that decision, more than half the states in the Union have adopted similar statutes. When an insurer unreasonably refuses to pay your claim, or refuses to properly defend and protect you from the claims of others, they are operating in bad faith. The insurance industry has pushed the boundaries of the law in order to deny insurance policy holders’ claims. This holds true for health insurance, life insurance and, unfortunately for those living in Texas, homeowner’s insurance. Before Hurricane Harvey was able to make landfall, the insurance lobbyists had convinced the Texas legislature to strip policy holders of their rights.

With all of the hurricanes that continue to hit the coasts of the United States, homeowners will have to do battle with their insurance companies to file claims due to the damage the storms will leave behind.To know how to arrange your coverage, you need to know how insurance policies work in the event of storm damage. Here are some tips for residents affected by the storms.

The first thing recommended is to report your claim as soon as possible. Insurance companies usually handle them on a first come, first serve basis.

Make sure that your claim exceeds your deductible, which could have risen in recent years if you haven’t checked your policy. Also, take note of your claim number as insurance companies use it to locate your file. Keep receipts for expenditures on repairs needed to secure your home or for living expenses, such as hotels and meals, if you couldn’t return home following the storm. You should be reimbursed for additional living expenses for wind claims, but if your claim is limited to flood insurance, unfortunately additional living expenses aren’t covered. When the insurance company adjuster comes to survey the damage, ask if he or she is an employee of your insurer or an independent adjuster hired by the company.  You should ask independent adjusters if they are authorized to make claim decisions and payments on behalf of your insurance company, as well as for the name of the in-house company adjuster. If you feel that the settlement offer is too low, you may file an appeal.

The days following a natural disaster can be confusing and stressful, especially for those who have suffered damages. For residents needing to file insurance claims, it is important that these claims be filed as quickly as possible as some policies have a deadline within which claims must be filed.

Every California contract contains an implied covenant of good faith and fair dealing, whereby each party covenants not to “do anything which will injure the right of the other to receive the benefits of the agreement.” (Wolf v. Walt Disney Pictures and Television (2008) 162 Cal.App.4th 1107, 1120.) However, in insurance contracts, unlike other contracts, breach of the implied covenant by the insurer gives rise to an independent tort known as insurance bad faith. (Egan v. Mutual of Omaha Insurance Company (1979) 24 Cal.3d 809, 818.) As the California Supreme Court explained in addressing the tort of insurance bad faith, one of the reasons insurance contracts are treated differently is because “[t]he insured . . . does not seek to obtain a commercial advantage by purchasing the policy—rather, he seeks protection against calamity.”(Id. at 819)

The attorneys at Kabateck LLP have honed specialized skills in handling insurance bad faith litigation for several decades. At Kabateck LLP, we can help you explore all of your options and ultimately achieve for you the maximum compensation for your harm.