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Texas Property Insurance Law Changes Just As Harvey Hits

The property damage from Hurricane Harvey may take years to assess. But, as The Chronicle reports, lawyers and watchdog groups are advising homeowners in Houston, San Antonio and throughout Texas to file notice of insurance claims immediately. This is because new state-wide insurance laws take effect on Friday, September 1, and may make it more difficult for individuals to obtain financial relief.

The law, known as House Bill 1774, was designed to reduce the number of “frivolous lawsuits” that policy holders file against insurers. Plaintiffs will have to provide an exacting level of detail before they’re permitted to bring matters to court, and penalties imposed upon insurance companies for failing to pay claims in a timely manner will be dramatically reduced.

As such, many experts have noted that homeowners who submit claims before Friday will be able increase the amount of financial compensation they potentially receive. And others – as seen in the fallout from Hurricane Katrina more than a decade ago – may face lengthy court battles with nothing to show for it.


Texas Congressman calls for implementation of law to be delayed

The bulk of the damage will, of course, affect Houston, Corpus Christi, and other locales along the Texas coast. But instances of serious wind damage have already been reported in San Antonio, and homeowners here should take precautions as well. (As should San Antonio residents who own coastal properties.)

At least one congressman, Representative Joaquin Castro, has called for a special legislative session to delay the implementation of HB1774. But it remains to be seen whether his plea will be heard.

Insurers will deny claims. And homeowners should be prepared for that.

Indeed, representatives of insurance companies and proponents of HB1774 are fighting back against those who say homeowners should file claims immediately. They note that such warnings will lead to the same types of frivolous lawsuits that the bill is meant to protect against.

What is clear is that there has been an incredible amount of damage, and there will be more to come. And it is inevitable that insurance disputes will arise. With this in mind, homeowners should take every precaution to protect their interests and position themselves to rebuild what they’ve lost.



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