The recent rough weather that swept across Texas created storms slamming Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock in addition to San Antonio and Del Rio. The damage in these three cities will likely spur an increase in first party claims against insurance policies covering property damage.
The recent rough weather that swept across Texas created storms slamming Austin, Pflugerville, Round Rock in addition to San Antonio and Del Rio. The damage in these three cities will likely spur an increase in first party claims against insurance policies covering property damage. The questions on our minds are: how well will insurers respond? Will they help or hinder the insured? We’ll tell you what to do if your insurer doesn’t step up to do the right thing.
First, let’s do a recap of Mother Nature’s latest temper tantrum. Whatever has Her angry, has really ticked her off! Not only did Texas get slammed, but reports of major damage across the Gulf States have been showing up in news feeds. Those will be covered in a separate post.
Late Monday/early Tuesday brought strong to severe thunderstorms across much of Central Texas. The storms came complete with large hailstones and wind gusts from the northwest that reached up to 25mph. Even after the storms passed, wind gusts in some areas clocked in at over 40mph, causing serious property damage.
The storms also brought almost two inches of rain early on Tuesday. While the rain may have been welcome due to recent drought conditions in the area, the rest of the package was completely unnecessary. Officials from the Lower Colorado River Authority said the highest rainfall in Cedar Park was 1.82”, with 1.6” in North Austin at Jolleyville, 1.55” at Lakeway near RM 620 and 1.65” at Barton Creek. Pflugerville topped off at 1.3” total rainfall.
Pflugerville (population 46,936) felt the fury of the hailstorm. Trained storm spotters and local media reported 101 incidents of hail. Most of the hail hit zip code 78664, which had 9 total reports. The largest hailstone reported in Pflugerville measured 4” in diameter.
Nearby Round Rock (population 99,887) got hit just as hard. Media and trained storm spotters reported 105 incidents of hail with the largest hailstone measuring 4” in diameter. Zip code 78613 had the most reports of damaging hail at 9 total reports.
As with the San Antonio/Del Rio storms, many homeowners suffered property damage, some caused by hail, others by high winds. There were multiple reports of lost shingles from roofs. Now is the time to call the insurance company to file a first party claim. But, what exactly does that mean?
First Party Claims Explained
When property damage occurs due to an issue covered by your homeowners’ policy, you file a claim for compensation. This compensation is meant to assist you in repairing, rebuilding or replacing damaged property. You, the insured, are known as the first party and your claim against your policy is called a first party claim.
Essentially, this means your insurer will send an inspector, also known as an adjustor, to inspect your property damage. The inspector assesses the extent of the damage and determines whether it can be repaired or if replacement is necessary. Insurance companies have whole departments and complex formulas dedicated to figuring out how much your wrecked roof is worth.
When the insurer is satisfied with the inspection, etc., the next step is letting you know how much they’re willing to pay you. Under a first party claim, the money is paid directly to you, the insured first party.
Ideally, that’s the way the first party claim system works. Sometimes, it really does work that way. Other times… not so much. Those are the times when it’s in your best interest to contact a qualified attorney with experience in dealing with first party claims. Why would you need an attorney? Well, insurance companies are businesses and their main goal, believe it or not, is not to help you. Their main goal is to make money. One way they do this is by denying or underpaying first party claims.
Here are some ways, called “acting in bad faith,” that insurance companies try to get out of paying you what you deserve:
- They ignore or undervalue certain damages, including:
- Structural damage
- Damage to siding
- Roof damage
- Broken windows and screens
- Plumbing and electrical damage
- Wind and fire damage
- Water damage
- Total replacement damage versus cosmetic repairs
- Damage to vehicles
- Delaying or denying your compensation without a good reason
- Failing to react promptly and reply to your claim
- Not performing a proper and thorough investigation of your damages
- Trying to get you to settle for less than your damages cost
- Neglecting to tell you that there is an appeals process for denied claims
- Not explaining why they denied or underpaid your claim
- Making it unnecessarily difficult for you to provide the documentation for your claim or asking for things that aren’t necessary
- Intimidating you through harassing investigative methods
You also have to be mindful of certain deadlines for filing your first party claims. Insurance companies don’t always make sure you know those deadlines and if you miss them… well, you’re out of luck.
There are some other things you should do after experiencing property damage:
- Take pictures of all damage to your property. If possible, use the timestamp function on your digital camera to provide proof of the timeframe.
- Protect yourself and your home from further damage, whether from vandals or more foul weather, by covering broken windows.
- Cover holes in your roof with a tarp to prevent further water damage.
- Keep your receipts for things such as tarps and window coverings. Your policy should reimburse you your out-of-pocket costs.
- Be wary of hiring repair people who go door-to-door offering to help. Often, this is a scam.
- Research local licensed contractors and reputable roofers to do the necessary repairs.
- Only hire those contractors or roofers who can prove they have liability insurance. If they don’t and they are injured on your property, you may be liable.
- Never pay in full up front. Reputable businesses will take deposits.