Navigating Property Damage and Insurance Disputes After Hurricane Beryl: Your Legal Rights and Options

property damage

Hurricane Beryl has left a path of destruction, devastating homes, businesses, and communities across Houston and beyond. As residents begin to pick up the pieces, many are encountering difficulties with their insurance claims.

As a firm with extensive experience helping clients navigate insurance disputes, our team at The Law Offices of Omar Khawaja knows just how much policyholders depend on insurance coverage in the wake of natural disasters. However, we also know that property insurance can be a confusing and complicated area, and that some insurers fail to treat their policyholders fairly.

Fortunately, policyholders have important rights when it comes to filing insurance claims, dealing with disputes, and securing payment for covered losses. Whether you’ve suffered storm damage, wind damage, flood damage, or other property losses arising from Hurricane Beryl, we can help you understand your rights and options and advocate for the outcome you need.

Understanding the Impact of Hurricane Beryl

Hurricane Beryl, which made landfall in Texas as a Category 1 hurricane in the early morning of Monday, July 8, has wreaked havoc across the region.

Beryl’s damaging winds and flash flooding have caused at least two confirmed deaths, knocked out power to over two million homes and businesses, and caused widespread damage to roofs, windows, and entire neighborhoods that have been flooded by fast-rising waters. As families and businesses assess the damage, it’s become clear that this is an incredibly devastating storm.

In these situations, insurance is meant to serve as a safety net for property owners who suffer losses. Unfortunately, many policyholders struggle to obtain the compensation they deserve. After all, large storms and widespread property damage pose major threats to the bottom lines of insurance companies, which is why many work to delay, deny, dispute, and underpay valid claims.

Your Rights as a Policyholder After a Hurricane

As a policyholder, you purchase property insurance for protection against events like hurricanes that can damage your insured property. When you have a valid policy, you have every right to be treated fairly by your insurer and receive prompt payment when you sustain covered losses.

Some of your key rights as a policyholder include:

  1. Timely Response: Insurers are required to respond to claims promptly. Delays can exacerbate your stress and slow down your recovery process.
  2. Fair Assessment: Your insurer must conduct a thorough and fair assessment of the damage. This includes sending a qualified adjuster to evaluate the losses.
  3. Clear Communication: You have the right to clear and transparent communication from your insurer. They should explain the claims process and any decisions made about your claim.
  4. Coverage for Covered Losses: If your policy covers the type of damage sustained, you are entitled to compensation. Insurers should not unfairly deny or underpay your claim.

Common Issues and Disputes in Hurricane Property Damage Claims

Unfortunately, disputes between policyholders and insurers are common after natural disasters. Here are some issues you might encounter:

  1. Claim Denials: Insurers may deny claims, arguing that the damage is not covered under the policy, or that damage was pre-existing and not caused by a storm. They might interpret policy language in a way that minimizes their liability, leaving policyholders without the necessary funds for repairs.
  2. Undervaluing Claims: Adjusters might undervalue the extent of the damage, leading to insufficient payouts. This can happen due to improper assessments or intentional attempts to reduce the insurer's payout obligations.
  3. Delays in Processing: Slow claim processing can leave you without the necessary funds to start repairs. Insurers that drag their feet or require excessive documentation or paperwork can cause periods of uncertainty and potential further damage to your property.
  4. Disagreement on Scope of Repairs: There can be disputes over what repairs are necessary and what is covered. Insurers may argue over the extent of repairs or replacements needed, often seeking to minimize their costs at the policyholder's expense.

Because property owners depend on insurance companies to handle their claims fairly and in a timely fashion, disputes and poor dealing can add insult to injury. By working with a lawyer who can protect your interests and level the playing field with powerful insurance corporations, you can position yourself to obtain the best possible outcome for your insurance claim.

Insurance Claim Disputes: What’s Bad Faith?

As a policyholder, you pay monthly premiums to your insurance provider with the expectation that they’ll treat you fairly if you suffer covered losses. Unfortunately, some insurance companies fail to live up to their end of the bargain by unfairly denying, delaying, or underpaying valid claims or by failing to uphold the obligations they owe you as a policyholder. This is a breach of duty known as “bad faith.”

Some examples of ways an insurer may act in bad faith include:

  • Improper denial of a valid insurance claim
  • Unreasonable delays in processing and paying your claim
  • Failure to offer fair value of the claim or failing to settle within policy limits
  • Failure to defend a policyholder against a claim
  • Withholding information about benefits under the policy
  • Altering policies without your knowledge or misrepresenting policy terms
  • Any act of intentional fraud or dishonesty
  • Not covering covered business interruptions

Your Rights as a Policyholder: Bringing a Bad Faith Action

Insurers generally owe a duty of good faith and fair dealing to their insured, which means they’re obligated to promptly and competently investigate claims, inform you of issues related to your benefits, and provide valid justification if they cannot fulfill your policy.

If your insurer failed to uphold their duties when handling a valid claim or defending you against one, you may have legal options. This includes bringing a bad faith action against your insurance carrier to compel performance and recover damages such as:

  • The benefits of your contract (the money you are owed for covered losses).
  • Compensation for consequential damages such as attorneys’ fees.
  • Punitive damages, in cases involving insurers that engage in fraud or intentional misrepresentation.

Our firm has extensive experience litigating disputes over insurance claims involving homeowners’ insurance, business insurance, and other forms of insurance coverage – including policies related to flooding and storm damage. We’re available to review your policy and discuss how we can help.

Legal Recourse for Policyholders

If you are facing disputes or difficulties with your Hurricane Beryl insurance claim or suspect your insurer is acting in bad faith, you may have legal options. Some important steps to take as you explore your options include:

  1. Review Your Policy: Understand the specifics of your insurance policy, including coverage limits and exclusions. Being informed about your policy details is crucial for effectively challenging any unjust decisions by your insurer.
  2. Document Everything: Keep detailed records of all communications with your insurer, as well as photos and receipts related to the damage and repairs. This documentation can be vital evidence if you need to dispute your insurer's actions.
  3. Seek Legal Advice: Consulting with an experienced insurance dispute attorney can help you navigate the complexities of your claim. At The Law Offices of Omar Khawaja, our knowledgeable attorneys can explore ways to resolve disputes without litigation or identify potential bad faith actions by your insurer and help you pursue appropriate legal remedies.
  4. File a Complaint: You can file a complaint with your state’s insurance department if you believe your insurer is acting in bad faith. Regulatory authorities can investigate and potentially sanction insurers who fail to uphold their contractual obligations.

How The Law Offices of Omar Khawaja Can Help

The Law Offices of Omar Khawaja has extensive experience helping policyholders resolve all types of insurance disputes. Here’s how we can assist you:

  • Policy Analysis: We will review your insurance policy to understand your coverage and identify any potential issues. This helps us craft a strong case to support your claim.
  • Claim Assistance: Our team can help you file or refile your claim, ensuring all necessary documentation is included. We work to present your claim in the most effective manner to maximize your chances of a fair recovery.
  • Dispute Resolution: If your claim has been denied or undervalued, we will negotiate with the insurance company to seek a fair settlement. Our experienced negotiators strive to resolve disputes without the need for lengthy litigation.
  • Legal Representation: Should it be necessary to take legal action, our experienced attorneys will represent you in court, fighting for the compensation you deserve. We are committed to ensuring that your rights as a policyholder are upheld and that you receive the full benefits of your insurance policy.

If you are a homeowner, business owner, or policyholder who is encountering challenges after suffering losses due to Hurricane Beryl, our attorneys at The Law Offices of Omar Khawaja are available to help. We serve clients across Houston, Harris County, and beyond and offer FREE consultations. Call (713) 561-5454 to request yours.