By Andrew Emett
As the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Harvey’s landfall approaches, the Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) recently issued an announcement reminding victims to file any remaining insurance claims before the deadline on August 25. Although the TDI recommended that many victims should file their claims to avoid their deadlines with Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA), scores of TWIA policy holders have filed lawsuits against the insurance company for drastically underpaying their Harvey claims.
On Monday, the Texas Department of Insurance issued the following press release: “As the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey approaches, the Texas Department of Insurance is reminding Texans that some insurance policies have a one-year deadline to file claims.
“Harvey made landfall August 25. Texas Windstorm Insurance Association (TWIA) claims must be reported by the one-year anniversary of the date the damage occurred unless the policyholder can show good cause for the delay.
“To file a TWIA claim, go to www.twia.org or call 1-800-788-8247.
“Some other insurance policies also have a one-year deadline to file claims unless the policyholder can show good cause for the delay. To see if your other policies have claim deadlines, check the policy language or contact your insurance company or agent.”
According to the TDI, Harvey victims must file their insurance claims by August 25 unless they can prove extenuating circumstances. Although the press release specifically named TWIA, many TWIA policy holders have filed lawsuits against the insurance company for underpaying their claims.
During a recent interview with KHOU11, TWIA policy holder Walter Abbott asked, “Why would you buy insurance from a company that has no intentions of paying you?”
After losing part of his roof and sustaining severe damage to his house from Hurricane Harvey, Abbott met with an adjuster for TWIA who concluded that the home needed a “complete gut and remodel” and “the cost would exceed the policy limits” of $236,000. Instead of adhering to the field adjuster’s estimate, TWIA later sent out a building consultant who determined that Abbott would only receive a fraction of the initial estimate.
“They sent me a check for $46,000,” Abbott said.
“It was not even close; it was a laugh,” his wife Kathy Abbott added.
Also located in Rockport, Texas, Joey Park’s waterfront home was also severely damaged by Hurricane Harvey last year. Despite the fact that TWIA’s initial adjuster determined Park’s residence was “not repairable” and a “total loss,” Park only received $168,000 instead of his policy limit of nearly $300,000.
“They didn’t seem to care. He was trying to cut the price of this claim,” Park said. “It’s disappointing to say the least.”
Nearly a year after Hurricane Harvey, Park’s waterfront home remains without floors, walls, or fixtures.
Representing Park, the Abbott family, and several other Harvey victims, attorneys John Black and Rick Daly are suing TWIA for underpaying their policy holders. Daly told KHOU11, “The building consultants have one job and one job only, and that is to write an estimate that is as low as they can possible put on paper with a straight face.”
According to a deposition taken of a claims supervisor contracted by TWIA, the supervisor testified in 80 percent of Harvey claims initially deemed a total loss, a building consultant later wrote an estimate for a much lower payment.
“It tells me that these are people that are being cheated,” Black said. “This is not the way the system was set up to work.”
“In no way, shape or form do we use building consultants to low-ball estimates,” stated Jennifer Armstrong, TWIA vice president of communications and legislative affairs. “We’re committed to every dollar that we owe under the policy.”
TWIA staff estimates total losses from Hurricane Harvey at $1.61 billion.