What to do if you file a Harvey insurance claim

A neighborhood near Addicks Reservoir are flooded by rain from Tropical Storm Harvey Tuesday, Aug. 29, 2017, in Houston. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip)

AUSTIN (KXAN) — The Texas Department of Insurance is gearing up to head to the coast and shelters to help those impacted by the flooding file claims through their insurance.

The first step is to talk to your insurance agent, then go to your property and assess the damage before the insurance company sends someone out, according to Jerry Hagins with the department

“When the insurance adjuster does come out try to be there to walk them through it to show them the damage to make sure they don’t miss anything,” Hagins says. “And if you have a builder or contractor already lined up it’s a good idea to have them there too so they can discuss possible cost and steps needed to repair your home.”

Hagins recommends documenting any flood damage with photographs and video, and to only make temporary repairs if they are needed prior to the adjuster coming out.

“You don’t want to make permanent repairs until the insurance adjuster has assessed the damage,” Hagins says. “And, save your receipts.”

After filing a claim, the insurance company has 15 days to acknowledge it received it and another 15 days to either accept the claim or deny it. If it is accepted, a check must be written within five days. If the claim is denied, consumers still have options.

“We suggest you talk to your agent and point out things they might have missed, and ask to see the specific policy language which they are citing for their assessment,” Hagins says.

Consumers and the insurance company can each hire an appraiser to assess the home. Those appraisers then bring on a third-party appraiser to make a binding decision based on the two other appraisals.

A lawsuit against the insurance company can also be filed. Starting Friday, HB 1774 goes into effect and it changes the process for lawsuits, but does not impact the claims process. The Texas Department of Insurance says the new law will have little impact on flood victims.

“This new law does not apply to claims through the Texas Windstorm Association and it does not apply to claims through the National Flood Insurance Program – and Hurricane Harvey is going to be generating claims along the coast, and so the new law doesn’t apply to either of those types of claims,” Hagins says.

The Texas Department of Insurance has a hotline set up to answer questions, 1-800-252-3439. A person who speaks English or Spanish is available from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Friday and from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. The hotline can also help consumers locate the contact information for their insurance agent.

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