Harvey’s Unfortunate Timing: Unfriendly consumer law takes effect on Sept. 1

THIS ARTICLE WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED IN THE KARNES COUNTYWIDE ON SEPTEMBER 6, 2017.

Business and homeowners across Coastal and South Texas are reeling from the devastation caused by Hurricane Harvey. Despite their weekend condition, a new law that takes effect on Sept. 1 will make it harder for these Texans to pursue successful insurance claims to get their necessary property repairs paid for.

Some local attorneys are urging Texans effected by the storm to immediately give notice to their insurers by Thursday.

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“Hurricane Harvey could not have come at a worse time. Many people have yet to assess the damage to their properties but the new law is not waiting for these people,” Kenedy Attorney Julie Castillo said.

House Bill 1774 changes the law regarding how legal actions for certain insurance claims are handled. The new law reduces the penalties insurance companies face when they don’t pay enough or on time, decreases the chances they will have to pay the plaintiff’s attorney fees and protects individual agents from the negative effects of being personally sued.

“Giving notice of property damage to an insurance company is likely the last thing on the mind of those who’ve been displaced by Harvey,” added Kenedy Attorney Jon Powell, who has handled consumer law claims for over 20 years. “But this new law was designed to take away consumer rights and immediate action is necessary.”

Homeowners can protect their ability to receive 18 percent interest on delayed payments by giving their insurers notice of their claim before Sept. 1. Even once notice is given, conflict can arise once policy holders are told that their claims will be settled for little to nothing or denied all together.

Powell cautioned, “Profit focused insurers have many strategies for denying, delaying and low-balling wind and water damage claims. Harvey victims should be prepared to take decisive action against insurance companies, to find and bring forth, specific evidence that their loss was caused by the hurricane and disprove insurer’s excuses for denying their claims.”

Harvey victims should not take any chances that might result in losing out on their ability to ensure insurance companies make good on their promises to protect their most valuable investment.

If safe to do so, property owners can protect themselves by taking photos of the damage to their property. Most importantly, they should send notices to their insurance companies before Friday.