Property Loss Claims - Disaster Relief
This article tells you about property loss claims in Texas for losses incurred from a disaster. This article was written by Texas RioGrande Legal Aid.
Recovery for losses depends on the type of insurance and the terms of the policy. Most property insurance covers losses from fire, smoke, wind, theft, riots, vandalism, and water damage not caused by flood. Flood insurance is a separate policy. A homeowner’s policy covers wind-blown rain damage if it can be shown the water damage was caused by wind and not due to flooding. Car insurance usually covers physical damage to the vehicle.
Your insurance company will send an inspector, who will submit a damage report to the National Flood Insurance Processing Center for approval. Only the Flood Processing Center can approve the flood claim. Flood insurance will not reimburse for temporary living expenses.
Contact the claims department to start the process. Many policies have a one-year deadline from the time of the loss to report the claim. There may be special procedures for disaster claims. Write down your policy number, the date, who you spoke with and what you talked about. To search for contact information for your insurance company, go to the search tool at the web site of the Texas Department of Insurance.
Documentation is very important. Give your insurance company:
- Receipts temporary shelter (hotel) and meal expenses.
- A detailed written description of physical damage to the property. Include photos, if available.
- An inventory of damaged belongings and estimated replacement value of each. List even small items, such as kitchen utensils and clothing accessories. Include estimated sales tax.
- Written estimates of repairs.
- Invoices or receipts for completed repairs.
Include dates on your documents. Keep copies of everything you send to the insurance company.
Texas law requires insurance companies to act within certain deadlines after a claim is filed or face fines and penalties. Insurance companies are required to:
- Respond within 15 days after receiving your claim in writing.
- Accept or reject your claim within 15 days after you submit any documents requested. If there is a delay, they get an additional 45 days if they give you written notice explaining the reasons for the delay. In a disaster situation, insurers get an additional 15 days to accept or reject your claim after you’ve submitted the documents they requested.
- Explain why they are rejecting all or a part of your claim to you in writing.
- Mail your claim check within five business days after they agree to pay your claim. If you are financing your house, the insurer will usually request that your mortgage lender approve your check before releasing it to you. The lender must act within 10 days after receiving the request for your insurance company. If you need money before your claim is resolved, ask for an advance on your settlement. Make sure that it states in writing that it is an advance only, not the final settlement. If your claim is denied, make a written request to reconsider. If your claim is denied, or if there is no action on your claim by the legal deadlines for insurance companies, consult a lawyer. The insurer might be liable for damages, attorneys’ fees and costs.