It has been almost a week since Hurricane Harvey came barreling down the Texas coastline as a Category-4 storm. Since that time, parts of Texas and Louisiana have been inundated with flood waters as Harvey continues to wreak havoc. Despite the fact that many of those affected have been unable to reach their homes or business to fully assess the damage because of road closures and flood waters, insureds whose businesses or homes were in the storm’s path should notify their insurers in writing now. The initial written notice should include the following information:
- Name and contact information for the insured;
- The location of the loss;
- The date and time of the loss (to the extent known); and
- A brief description of the loss.
Importantly, most property insurance policies, including those providing business-interruption coverage, may include limitations on when notice of a claim must be provided. While these time limits vary from policy to policy, failure to provide timely notice to the insurance company may result in a finding of no coverage. In addition, as numerous media outlets have reported, Texas recently enacted a statute (House Bill 1774) that limits some remedies for property insurance claims made after September 1. Importantly, these limitations do not apply to policies issued by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association or issued through the National Flood Insurance Program. Policyholders, however, should not be dissuaded if they were unable to submit a claim before September 1 so long as they provide written notice to their insurer as soon as possible to comply with the policy’s notice provision. While House Bill 1774 does lower the statutory interest rate applicable to claims made on or after September 1, 2017, when an insurer fails to promptly pay a claim in Texas and potentially lowers attorneys’ fees recoverable from the insurer in some instances, it does not eliminate these penalties entirely. The Texas Department of Insurance has set up a website specifically addressing Hurricane Harvey Relief and House Bill 1774. Please visit their “Help After Harvey” webpage for more information.
In addition, members of the Hunton Insurance team have been working with the American Bar Association’s Insurance Coverage and Litigation Committee (ICLC) and Standing Committee on Disaster Response and Preparedness to provide additional resources for those affected. More information can be found at www.ambar.org/harvey. Members of the Hunton Insurance team have also worked with the ICLC to create a checklist of tasks for submitting and handing property damage and business interruption claims. The checklist and additional Harvey Resources can be found on the ICLC’s website here.