Although it’s still too early to add up the total economic losses of Houston businesses after Hurricane Harvey, some estimators suggest the tally might be worse than that on Hurricane Katrina. However, several commercial insurers such as Hannover Re have gone on the record to predict that estimates of damages in Houston and along the Gulf Coast may be less than those paid out for Katrina victims.
Regardless of the total financial losses to be paid out in Harvey’s wake, many Houston and Harris County businesses believe that insurers will do everything possible to prevent paying out maximum claims—or delay or underpay these claims–when businesses need the money most.
Even if the total financial losses from Harvey aren’t on par with or greater than those from Katrina—reported losses paid out by insurance companies range from $100 to $200 million—we know that insurers will consider the total claims payout as massive.
According to The New York Times, Houston has more than five times’ as many employers than New Orleans. Forbes reports that the economy of Houston-The Woodlands-Sugar Land (2015) is larger than Argentina’s GDP the same year.
As one of the world’s largest global capitals in energy/energy services, Houston’s residents include 20 headquarters of Fortune 500 corporations, the MD Anderson Cancer Center, George H.W. Bush Intercontinental Airport, William P. Hobby Airport, and thousands of private small, medium-sized, and large private businesses. Refineries, regional shippers, truckers, and rail infrastructure businesses all call Houston home.
Unfortunately, most of these businesses sustained some damage after Hurricane Harvey. Many Houston downtown office buildings sustained damage. Reports note than 75 percent reopened their doors within three to five days, but others sustained significant property damage and business interruptions.
Houston businesses suffered significant commercial vehicle damage claims as well. According to USA Today, it’s estimated that Houston employers may have commercial claims for hundreds of thousands of vehicles.
Schools in the Houston Independent School District also suffered damages. Approximately 200 public schools and school-related facilities sustained damages, forcing them to close. Hundreds of thousands of teachers and students were also affected.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall in Houston on August 26th, 2017 and stayed for four days. Two area reservoirs experienced overflows. Highways turned to waterways. About 30 percent of Harris County sustained flooding.
Cedar Bayou, at Houston’s outskirts, received almost 52 inches of rain. That’s an all-time record for a storm in the continental U.S.
By September 5th, 2017, more than 500,000 business and individuals registered for help from the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). NBC News in Dallas Ft. Worth reported that the weight of the hurricane’s rains resulted in a 2-cm. depression of terra firma in the Houston metro area.
Geophysicists and meteorologists note that the extensive damage from Hurricane Harvey was “unusual.” Unfortunately, Harvey lingered over the Houston metro area for a longer period than most hurricanes have over the past 140 years.
According to experts, Hurricane Harvey will rank in the top 10 of the most destructive U.S. storms. Houston and Harris County businesses must now do what’s necessary to get back to business. This involves filing commercial property damage, flood, tornado, fire, and other claims in the coming weeks and months ahead.
Realize that Texas law protects the insured from bad faith actions of a commercial insurance company. Before you submit a written claim, contact the commercial insurer as soon as possible about your intention to submit a claim. Assuming that the business is making a claim for a covered weather-related event, the business must respond to your claim in written form within a 15-day period. If it doesn’t, it’s the responsibility of the insured to send the insurance company a certified letter to establish a deadline.
Texas law requires the insurer to conduct an investigation of your commercial insurance claim promptly. If it doesn’t, or if the insurer takes steps to delay or underpay the claim, or if it denies the valid claim, the business will benefit from contacting an experienced commercial claims lawyer in Houston.
Although it’s the business’ right make a complaint against the insurer with the Texas Department of Insurance, realize the department staff is underpaid and overworked. A plaintiff’s lawyer with experience in commercial insurance claims can prompt the insurer to perform its duty, even if it requires taking the insurer to court.
If an insurance company denies your commercial claim, don’t take the adjuster’s word for it. Get the denial in writing. The denial must legally state the reasons the insurer denied the claim—such as “according to a,b,c policy provisions.”
Bad faith actions of an insurer aren’t a do-it-yourself task. You need an experienced, aggressive Houston commercial claims lawyer to act on your behalf. Call the Mindiola Law Firm at now.