Among the most read news stories in Insurance Journal’s South Central region during 2017 concerned Hurricane Harvey and Texas hailstorm (aka natural catastrophe insurance claims) legislation.
The insurance industry in Texas for years has been pushing for legislation aimed at limiting the number of post-natural catastrophe claims lawsuits, and lawmakers in 2017 finally managed to get a bill passed and signed by the governor.
HB 1774 curbs lawsuit abuse by requiring notice before a suit can be filed in order to permit the insurer to address any outstanding claims issues, according to the American Insurance Association (AIA), a national insurance company trade organization. Attorney’s fees may not be awarded if the court finds the insurer was entitled to but not provided with pre-suit notice.
The bill, which became effective on Sept. 1, also cuts penalties for insurers sued for offering too little money on storm claims, including wind and hail damage, while making it harder for those suing to collect attorneys’ fees.
Hurricane Harvey made landfall as a category 4 hurricane southeast of Corpus Christi late on August 25. Even before the storm hit, some insurance industry observers, consumer advocates and trial lawyers saw a link between the coming storm and the recently passed catastrophe claims bill. Insureds were bombarded with a slew of mixed messages over how the notice requirement in the HB 1774 would impact Harvey claims.
Some attorneys recommended that clients who suffered property damage from Harvey should file notice of a claim with their insurers before the Sept. 1 effective date of the new law, warning that under HB 1774 policyholders would lose certain legal protections they had before the law went into effect.
But insurance industry representatives, such as the Independent Insurance Agents of Texas, the Insurance Council of Texas and the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI), said that wasn’t so, that the claims process had not changed due to the new law and that insureds would continue to have full access to the courts should a dispute arise with their insurer.
While hurricane force winds and tornadoes wrought plenty of destruction and created much heartache for Texas coastal residents, Harvey’s heaviest impact came from the catastrophic flooding that resulted from days upon days of watery deluge as the storm stalled over Southeast Texas and Southwest Louisiana.
Here are some stories related to the region’s most read news of the year:
- Texas Governor Calls for Legislation to Rein in Hailstorm Litigation
- First Harvey Lawsuit Filed to Beat New Texas Tort Reform Law
- Harvey Set to Bring ‘Catastrophic’ Flooding Across Texas
- Hurricane Harvey Puts Pressure on Regional Insurers in Texas, Says A.M. Best
- Insurance Adjusters Mobilized to Deal with Harvey Cat Losses
- Mixed Messages Sent Over Texas’s New Cat Claims Statute
- Texas’ Costliest Year for Hailstorms Began on March 16, 2016
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