One Month In, Texas Property Owners Face Insurance Claim Delays and Excessive Scrutiny
It’s been about 1 month since Winter Storm Uri unleashed a frozen fury leaving millions of Texans in the dark to survive deadly frigid temperatures and up to $130 Billion in estimated damages. The record cold triggered mass power outages crippling The Lone Star State’s largest cities from Houston, San Antonio, Dallas, Fort Worth, Arlington, Austin, El Paso and down to Corpus Christi.
Despite the frenzy of news media covering the Texas grid crisis, power company executive resignations, bankruptcy filings and lawsuits, little coverage has been given to property owners still suffering from water damage caused by the plumbing freezes, water pipe bursts, or the administrative delays processing property damage insurance claims. Many consumers are just now turning to their insurance agents to file new claims or express frustration about the slow claims process. The single biggest question many are asking is, will insurance cover their claims?
With a team of licensed Public Adjusters working large loss claims in Texas, we are witnessing firsthand insurance company red tape and client confusion. We are seeing firm clients in Texas suffer excessive and undue scrutiny from insurance companies who are seeking to buy time. We have not read one insurance industry news article explaining ‘depreciation’ for residential policyholders to understand claim payments. We are still documenting firm clients experiencing prolonged cause and origin investigations for commercial properties such as apartments where multiple buildings were severely affected. Insurance companies do have the right to inspect and determine the cause of loss and policyholders must cooperate. Doing so, helps expedite the claim process and ultimately allows insurers to render final coverage determination. However, it appears insurance companies (and their lawyers) are starting to explore ways to get their money back from power companies.
Our firm clients who own apartment buildings are suffering even greater financial losses as their tenants have stopped paying rents due to conditions of damage sustained inside their Units. While some policyholders have insurance coverage for loss of rental income, I'm finding coverage limits are very low, so coverage will quickly exhaust given the time to restore to pre-loss condition aka Period of Restoration. (Assuming there's Coverage).
Delaying much needed insurance claim recovery funding that Texas consumers and businesses deserve to help offset expenses such as repairs of damaged plumbing, demolition and dry-out services, removal and haul-away of wet building materials or simple replenishment of spoiled food puts a greater financial burden on them individually and hampers the community from getting back to some normalcy. Still, Insurance companies and their adjusters are asking policyholders if they took action to or could have taken action to shut the water supply off in order to prevent water under pressure from being expelled into homes and buildings through pipes that expanded and fractured once the thaw occurred or provide evidence that it was outside of their control from doing so. Taking no action may void the policy.
In short, insurance companies are taking an aggressive stance on protecting their contractual rights and of course their bottom line. Everything really depends on your specific insurance policy with the understanding that not all policies cover damage from frozen pipes. Some policies require property owners to maintain heat at a certain temperature, take 'reasonable' steps to drain water from supply lines if the required temperature is unable to be maintained or shut off the water supply during absence from your property to prevent a potential water damage event. Policies will have to be professionally reviewed to determine if this specific language applies and we recommend policyholders have their insurance agent, an attorney or Public Adjuster review the policy to understand the specific details of what is and is not covered regarding the current loss. We fear many policyholders will be in for a rude awakening.
Additionally, if your policy covers the water damage that ensues from a burst water pipe, most policies surprisingly do not cover the cost of replacing the actual section of the damaged pipe. Therefore, you will still have out-of- pocket costs to fix the actual pipe. However, insurance may cover the cost of repairing the wall around the damaged pipe or the tear out of drywall or flooring to access the pipe. Did you save or take photos of that damaged pipe before you began tear out and repairs? Without it, you could be challenged on the validity of the claim! See how complicated these claims can become? I hate to say it, but all too often we see some insurance companies exploit policyholders lack of knowledge about coverage and the claims process to dictate how repairs are to be made and what will be paid for. Again, you must have your policy thoroughly reviewed to determine what coverages your insurance contract provides.
Below, we have provided a sample list of questions and requested information that we see insurance company adjusters asking clients 1-month after filing a claim. How you answer these questions could impact your claim results. Some people may innocently provide answers that might be used against them should they simply mention the wrong word or explain the loss in the wrong manner. This can make a disastrous situation much worse for recovering Texans because how you communicate and present your claim to your insurance company can be the deciding factor between a covered claim or a denied claim. Consulting with a Public Adjuster or Attorney who is used to dealing with insurance red tape could be instrumental in getting a fair settlement.
If these situations sound all too familiar to you, or if you have become frustrated with the runaround from your insurance company, start protecting one of your most valuable assets by contacting Tutwiler & Associates Texas office today for a no obligation policy and claim review. We can be directly reached by calling 214-396-5768. Texas License No:1399706
Insurance Company Requested information
- Date of Loss:
- Did property lose power:
- Date and Time:
- Power Restored:
- Sporadic Outage:
- Utility Company:
- Temperature During:
- Prior Week Temperature:
- Standby Generator:
- Heating Source:
- Water Pipes: Insulated?
- Please let me know the status of the loss at this time and what happened.
- Was mitigation done and if so, what company did the mitigation?
- How many units were damaged or was this an office, gym etc.?
- Was this a plumbing line or sprinkler line and has it been fixed? Any information on the plumber would be appreciated.
- Do you have a contractor that has looked at the damage at this time?
- Initial Damage Assessment and Moisture Mapping
- Proposed Scope of Work and NTE/ROM Proposal, communicated and authorized by the insured.
- Invoice format to be used for billing. If T&M, provide Rate Sheets and executed vendor contract(s).
- Daily production updates/communications
- Subsequent Moisture Mapping/Moisture Monitoring documentation with equipment placed.