Insurers Offer Recovery Advice to Texans Impacted by Hurricane Harvey
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) today offered recovery advice to Texans for assessing the damage to their properties and starting the claims process.
“Insurers are ready help families with the recovery process,” said Joe Woods, PCI vice president of state government relations. “Catastrophe teams have moved into Corpus Christi. Unfortunately, many parts of Houston are still closed due to downed power lines and high water. Insurers are positioned to move in as soon as local authorities give clearance.”
Most wind-related damage is covered by either homeowners, renters or commercial insurance policies. Renters insurance also provides coverage to policyholder possessions under this peril. Business owners are covered under their commercial policies. Protection from windstorm or hail damage for cars is covered under the comprehensive portion of the automobile insurance policy.
Flood damage is typically covered through the National Flood Insurance Program rather than homeowners insurance. However, cars, trucks and other vehicles damaged by flood water are typically covered under an auto policy’s comprehensive coverage.
“If your home, automobile, or business is damaged, contact your insurer as soon as possible to start the recovery process. Your insurer can walk you through what is covered by your policy,” said Woods.
Contrary to recent misleading social media posts, the insurance claims process will not change under reform legislation (HB 1774) that was passed by the Texas Legislature this year and went into effect on September 1. Instead, the new law adds new checks and balances to the system to dissuade unnecessary, manufactured lawsuits.
“Policyholders do not lose any protections with these changes that went into effect on September 1,” said Woods. “The new law does not bar access to the courts nor does it prevent consumers from retaining legal counsel.”
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.
“Rumors on social media are inappropriate scare tactics that are trying to capitalize in a time of widespread pain and misfortune following one of the worst natural disasters in decades.”
PCI Tips if You Experience a Loss from a Storm:
- Secure property from further damage or theft.
- Contact your insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible to report damage.
- Inventory losses and photograph damage to provide to your insurance adjustor. Save receipts.
- If you are a business owner, keep detailed records of business activity that is negatively affected due to the tornado or storm and keep a list of extra expenses during the interruption. Prepare records to show the income from the business before and after the loss.
- Many standard homeowners and renters’ policies provide reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps with paying for increases to necessary living expenses, such as temporary housing and restaurant meals. In addition, extra expenses, such as overnight parking and laundry services may also be covered. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses, so contact your insurance company or agent for a list of what your policy will cover.
- Be careful about unscrupulous contractors following a natural disaster. Contact your insurer, agent, or local business bureau for references on potential contractors and ask for certificates of liability and workers’ compensation before signing contracts.
Business Recovery Information
- In the aftermath of natural disasters, businesses should take immediate steps to minimize damage, speed up the claims process and accelerate business recovery. Assess the damage and report all damage to your insurance company agent as soon as possible.
- Take pictures of your building and contents to document the damage.
- Check for safety hazards, such as downed trees, branches, downed power wires and leaking gas.
- Keep all receipts for anything purchased for that purpose so they can be submitted to your insurance company.
- Be prepared to list the “replacement cost” of each item and its actual cash value. Replacement cost is what it would cost today to replace an item with another one just like it. Actual cash value is what the item is really worth after deducting for depreciation and wear.
- Restore your utilities, phone service, gas lines and other important links as soon as possible.
- Business interruption coverage is complex and will vary by insurers. It is important to read your policy and understand what is and is not covered.
- As you seek contractors to make repairs, deal only with reliable, licensed professionals. Get written bids from the contractor, but don’t sign any contracts or give a deposit until you have seen your insurance adjuster.
- If you or your employees get involved in clean-up efforts, use safety items like proper eyewear, gloves, hardhats, dust masks and respirators.
- Keep detailed records of business activity and extra expenses during the interruption period, and prepare records to show the income from the business both before and after the loss.
What to do if you have Flooding Damage:
- Shovel or scrape the mud off your floors, furniture and walls before the mud dries. Then hose down the walls with clean water, starting from the ceiling.
- Major appliances, such as refrigerators and stoves, can be washed and dried completely. In most cases, they will not be damaged unless they were operating at the time the water covered them.
- Diluted chlorine bleach can be used to clean household items, appliances, walls and floors. This also will help control odors.
- Wood furniture should be dried outdoors, but not in direct sunlight. Remove drawers and other moving parts before they dry.
- Water and electricity make for a dangerous combination. Take the proper precautions to avoid electric shock.
- Food utensils and equipment should be washed thoroughly and sterilized before you use them. Any food that is open and exposed to flood waters should be discarded.
- 2017 Interactive Home Inventory Guide
- PCI 2017 Have A Plan Insurance Checklist
- 2017 Hurricane Fact Sheet
- Contractor Fraud Tips
- PCI Member Company Toll-Free Policyholder Claim Phone Numbers
- PCI Public Policy Solutions for Catastrophe Insurance
- National Hurricane Center (Check the current weather patterns here.)
- National Flood Insurance Program
- Weather Ready Nation: Hurricanes
- Red Cross – Preparing for Hurricanes
- Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety