AUSTIN – State Rep. Leighton Schubert (R-Caldwell) issued the following statement regarding Hurricane Harvey.
“Brittany and I are heartbroken at the devastating loss of life and property caused by Hurricane Harvey.
I ask that you please join us in continuing to pray for our fellow Texans at this difficult time. House District 13 has been hit especially hard, but when I see so many Texans helping their neighbors I am encouraged to see the Texas spirit is alive and well. May God continue to bless the great state of Texas." As with any evolving situation of this nature, misinformation can spread quickly. Texans should have the facts about insurance claims following Hurricane Harvey. The normal insurance claims process has not changed. Reform legislation passed in the last legislative session, House Bill 1774 co-authored by Schubert, goes into effect on Sept. 1, 2017, and applies to lawsuits filed after that date. A person making a claim with an insurance company after Sept. 1, 2017 will go through the same process as a person making a claim before Sept. 1, 2017.
Texans should contact their insurance companies directly to file claims. Lawsuits are the exception – not the rule, and the vast majority of Texans will resolve their claims without needing to file a lawsuit. Beware of anyone — lawyer, adjuster, contractor, or anyone else — claiming to help you get more money from your insurance company. If your insurer does improperly deny or delay paying your claim, Texas has the strongest consumer protections in the nation for you, which will continue to be the case after Sept. 1, 2017.
Texans can receive full damages for unpaid claims, can recover attorney fees for legal action taken to recover those damages, and can also recover penalty interest. If an insurer acts fraudulently or in bad faith, additional remedies, including the recovery of triple damages, are available to Texans. This is true today, and it will be true after the reform legislation HB 1774 goes into effect on Sept. 1, 2017. Furthermore, the new law will not apply to most claims or lawsuits arising from Harvey, because most of the policyholders’ claims will be for damage caused by flooding. These claims will be made under the federal flood insurance program and governed by federal law.
The law that became effective on Sept. 1, 2017, is designed to do two important things:
1. Discourage the feeding frenzy by lawyers and contractors following natural events occurring in Texas over the past several years. These unscrupulous actors have taken advantage of thousands of hard-working Texans over the past several years.
2. Encourage out-of-state insurance adjusters to come work in Texas following a massive disaster like Harvey. In the following days and weeks, it will be critically important for out-of-state adjusters to work in Texas to ensure that insurance claims are evaluated and paid in a timely manner.
In sum, the new law does not affect the claims process. Instead, it affects only the lawsuits that sometimes follow the claims process.
Furthermore, it does not create a new deadline for action by policyholders.
Representative Schubert represents District 13 in the Texas House of Representatives, which includes Austin, Burleson, Colorado, Fayette, Grimes, Lavaca, and Washington Counties. He serves on the Committee on Energy Resources, Committee on Special Purpose Districts, and the Committee on House Administration.