By: David Sampson
It speaks volumes that while insurers are standing ready to surge claims adjusters into impacted areas as soon as search and recovery efforts transition to rebuilding, storm-chasing lawyers are focused on lawsuits.
Contrary to recent misleading social media posts and news accounts, the insurance claims process for insurance policyholders will not change under reform legislation (HB 1774) that was passed by the Texas Legislature this year and goes into effect Sept. 1. Instead, the new law adds checks and balances to the system to dissuade unnecessary, manufactured lawsuits that were lining the pockets of third parties and not policyholders.
Safety is the first priority as Hurricane Harvey continues to impact the state with its wind and heavy rains. Also of importance, residents can rest assured that there are thousands of insurance claims adjusters in the Austin and San Antonio areas that are ready to enter the affected areas as soon as they can do so safely and are given permission by local authorities.
If you sustain damage to your home or automobile, contact your insurer as soon as possible to start the claims process, and work with your adjuster to identify all damages and coverages. Residents should beware of scammers who prey on storm victims. These unscrupulous third-party contractors come in all varieties and can lure in unsuspecting families with deals and offers that seem too good to be true.
Policyholders do not lose any protections with these changes that go into effect on Sept. 1. 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.
It also is important to clear the record that there are very few legal battles on insurance claims, despite headlines. Following Hurricane Katrina, 98 percent of claims were settled within a year of the tragic storm. Following Superstorm Sandy, less than 1 percent of claims were settled by litigation.
Many rumors on social media are inappropriate scare tactics that are trying to capitalize on a time of widespread pain and misfortune following one of the worst natural disasters in decades.
The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America encourages individuals to use their insurance companies or agents as resources in helping to access the services needed to handle claims and take the proper precautions to make sure they are not taken advantage of. If consumers believe that an insurer is not meeting the terms of the policy, they have the right to take legal action, including filing suit.
David A. Sampson is the president and chief executive officer of the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America.