Hurry! Hurry! Hurry! This opportunity will not last long. You must act now! If you miss the September 1 deadline, you'll turn into a pumpkin.
That was the message some local lawyers were sending to homeowners with Hurricane Harvey-damaged properties. Well, maybe not the bit about the pumpkin, but some calls to action were so unhinged that it did seem like some genuine insurance policy catastrophe was looming.
What fearful thing happened last Friday? Recently passed state legislation went into effect reducing the penalty that can be assessed against insurance companies that unlawfully delay or deny payment for legitimate claims. The penalty has been reduced from 18 to 10 percent of the claim.
That reduction is of far less concern to homeowners than it is to the lawyers sending out their dire warnings and swarming like locusts after another natural disaster. Most homeowners have policies with reputable companies, are satisfied with their settlements when they make claims, and have no need to go to court.
But there are some dodgy companies out there, and some crafty policyholders – and not a few unscrupulous attorneys ever eager to challenge even fair settlements.
“There has been much misinformation, some of it apparently deliberate, about the impact of HB 1774 on property insurance claims,” State Attorney General Ken Paxton commented in an Aug. 31 statement.
Paxton emphasized that “the bill does not apply to the federal flood insurance program, nor does it apply to homeowner policies issued by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association. For all other property insurance policies,” he added, “the legislation does not change the claim filing process or the timelines for filing claims.”
Paxton affirmed that “Texas policyholders will continue to have strong remedies against insurance companies, whether claims are filed before Sept. 1 or after.”
So, the frantic warnings from self-serving attorneys were much ado about nothing? Quelle surprise!
Maybe now we can concentrate on helping each other recover from Harvey.