Getting insurance to pay for storm damage may become harder

PHOTO: Storms damages Dalton Ranch in Rockwall, Texas, Photo Date: 3/29/2017. (Photo: Brian Abraham / Twitter / MGN Online)

Carol Fredenburg didn't think the storm was going to be that bad. Then the skies opened up with hail.

"Our neighborhood suffered a pretty good hail storm in 2013," Carol said.

Two sides of her roof were heavily damaged and the other sides had lighter damage. She says she'll never forget the sound.

"It was deafening," Carol said. "I mean it was like, it sounded like gunshots almost."

As scary as that was she says it was nothing compared to what it was like dealing with her insurance company as she tried to get her roof fixed.

"It was hell," Carol said. "It was no at every turn, every turn."

She says two roofers told her she needed a new roof. But she wanted to be sure.

"So then I had an independent person come out," Carol said. "They said, 'oh yeah, it's damaged. Here's a lot of pictures.' OK, so my homeowners insurance still said nope. We're not going to pay."

Carol says mediation was a failure so her last resort was to sue.

"They delayed, delayed, delayed and finally they settled out of court," Carol said.

The executive director of Texas Watch says it's about to get even harder for consumers to sue insurance companies with the passage of House Bill 1774.

"This is a really dangerous bill that is going to have a harmful effect on thousands if not millions of Texas property owners," Texas Watch Executive Director Ware Wendell said.

He says the bill reduces penalties against insurance companies if they don't pay property claims on time. It can reduce the recovery of attorney's fees in some cases and it requires property owners to re-notify the insurance company of an impending lawsuit.

"It doesn't distinguish between good claims and bad so it helps the worst insurance companies," Wendell said.

But, Texas gets its fair share of severe weather and hail storms. The insurance companies say some home owners try to cash in on disasters.

"We've seen an enormous increase in litigation in homeowners," Texas Coalition of Affordable Insurance Solutions Executive Director Beamon Floyd said.

The Texas Coalition for Affordable Insurance Solutions, or TCAIS, says HB 1774 is about reigning in rogue lawyers and homeowners who abuse the system.

"It prevents them from going out and gathering a huge number of people, creating a big cut and paste filing and then try and use that as leverage to get insurance companies to pay more than they should," Floyd said.

Consumers will not lose their right to sue insurance companies but Carol hopes insurance companies don't use these protections to abuse policy holders.

"I think the legislators should be working for the consumers," Carol said. "They should be thinking, 'How do we protect the consumers,' not the insurance companies. They have the upper hand."

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