After your home or business sustained storm damage, when is the right time to retain the services of a storm damage lawyer?
Over the last several years, I have talked to many potential clients mostly about storm damage to their properties in which their insurance company has significantly undervalued the cost of repair or replacement or their insurance company has unjustly denied coverage for damages clearly covered under the terms of the policy. A question most people ask me is whether or not they have reached the dead end point with their insurance company that retaining the services of a storm damage lawyer is necessary. I wish I could say that the answer to this question is a straightforward yes or no, but the truth is, it really depends on the facts of each claim.
In April 2016, two strong hail stormed moved through San Antonio, Bexar County, Texas causing significant storm damage and hail damage to properties located in and around the San Antonio, Texas area. The storm damage to properties that were located in the path of these storms was catastrophic. Property owners took photos of baseball size hail which would definitely cause devastating damage to a home or a business. Since that time, we have received a large volume of phone calls from property owners whose property sustained extreme hail damage, siding, brick veneer and roof damage but they felt that the insurance company was giving them the runaround as to paying for the full damage to their property as a result of these two massive storms. However, they were just not sure if it was the right time to hire a hail damage lawyer.
There is really no definite answer to this question but most of the time, there needs to be a breach of its duty by the insurance company to adjust the claim in “good faith.” “Good faith” as a legal term has a changing meaning in each fact situation. There are a few things you, as a property owner, can look for to determine if your insurance company has breached its duty and if it is the right time to hire a hail damage attorney:
• Has your insurance company strategically delayed payment for the storm damage to your property? For example, has the insurance company required you, as the property owner, to obtain your own estimate for roof replacement as a result of the hail damage to your roof? Or has the insurance company delayed payment on the grounds that another adjuster or “expert” needs to first examine the storm damages to your property? An unreasonable delay in payment under the terms of the policy can be a breach of the insurance company’s duty to adjust your claim in good faith.
• Has your insurance company released only a small percentage of the funds to initiate the necessary repairs to the property as a result of your hail damage claim? Many insurance companies do this because a lot of contractors will not start the repair work on the property until they have been paid for a significant portion of their estimate. This requires the property owner to come out of pocket in order to start the repairs and allows the insurance company to get the contractor’s final invoice and remove items the insurance company does not deem to be necessary and reduce prices to some arbitrary number which does not reflect the actual costs of repair and/or replacement. Many times, even after the insurance company has submitted its final payment to the insured, the insured is still not fully compensated for the entire storm damage repairs.
• Has your insurance company unjustly denied coverage for your entire claim or portions of your claim? For example, as a result of the hail storms that moved through San Antonio in April 2016, homeowners sustained catastrophic hail damage to their roofs. Most of the hail damage was paid for by insurance companies on residential claims if the roof was a standard composition shingled roof. However, insurance companies denied coverage on more costly roofs, like clay tile roofing systems, tar roofing systems, and bitumen roofing systems. The damages to these roofs were obvious and extreme, yet insurance companies either denied coverage saying that baseball size hail could not damage those roofing systems (which is false) or they agreed to pay for the “damaged sections/tiles” of the roofing systems. Even on claims in which the roofing system was a composition shingled roof which was paid for by the insurance company, they still denied replacement of other things like wooden fences, decks, shutters, and siding stating that the damages could be simply repaired or it was “ordinary wear and tear” and not storm related.
You, as the property owner, are allowed to dispute the decision that your insurance company makes regarding the extent of damages and the value of the damages to your property as a result of your hail damage claim. You can simply contact your adjuster and/or provide invoices, estimates, or reports from roofers, contractors and/or experts that contradict the insurance company’s value or determination of damages to the property as a result of the storm damages. Allow the insurance company to re-inspect if necessary and ask that regardless of the outcome, the insurance company provide something in writing as to their determination of your dispute of damages. If the insurance company continues to stand on its denial or its valuation of the damages to your property as result of the hail damage, it is time to contact a hail damage lawyer who can assist you with your disputed claim for storm damages to your property.
Recent weather events have caused a large number of claims across Texas and many other states. The hail storms that moved through San Antonio in April 2016 were catastrophic and severe. Driving through neighborhoods in San Antonio, I observed houses with massive holes in their siding and obvious chips in the brick veneer. As a policyholder, you have a right to have your home or business returned to the condition it was in prior to the storm damages. If the insurance company is not willing to compensate you fairly, it is in your best interest to contact a hail damage lawyer who can assist you with your claim against your insurance company for the storm damages to your property and help you protect one of your biggest assets, your home or business.
For more information about storm or property damage, contact The Cartwright Law Firm at (713) 840-0950. Se habla español.