Lawyers: Start filing Hurricane Harvey insurance claims by Friday to avoid implications of new Texas insurance law

Updated at 12:26 p.m. on Aug. 31
Attorney General Ken Paxton released a statement on Thursday dispelling some rumors about the impact of House Bill 1774. He emphasized the bill does not impact the federal flood insurance program nor any policy issued by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

Paxton directed those with questions to the Texas Department of Insurance.

Updated at 1:19 p.m. on Aug. 30

Stephanie Goodman, deputy commissioner of public affairs for the Texas Department of Insurance, reiterated in an interview with the Texas Tribune that there is no impending deadline to cut off the claims process for those affected by Hurricane Harvey. Those with damage to properties will be able to file insurance claims long after this Friday.

House Bill 1774, which will go into effect on Sept. 1, will not alter the way individuals file a claim with insurance. It also does not affect flood or windstorm damage, which is often insured through federal insurance or the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association.

The bill affects lawsuits in the case someone filing insurance damage has a dispute with his or her insurance provider.

FEMA released a statement on Wednesday encouraging National Flood Insurance Program policyholders to file insurance claims as soon as possible, simply to start the recovery process, not because of anything having to do with the impending legislation.

Lawyers continue to encourage those with damage to file claims prior to Friday to potentially avoid the implications from HB 1774.

Steve Mostyn, a Houston-based attorney with Mostyn Law focusing on weather-related insurance claims, urged those impacted by the storm to file claims quickly.

"Texans who have suffered from Hurricane Harvey need to do all they can to document their damages and file claims as soon as they can and get a second opinion if you feel as though your insurance company's estimate does not fairly represent the amount or extent of your property's damages," Mostyn said.

Original story posted at 10:54 a.m. on Aug. 28

Damage left by Hurricane Harvey is far from over, but those seeing immediate consequences are being encouraged by lawyers to file insurance claims by Friday if they hope to avoid consequences of a newly passed Texas law.

House Bill 1774, passed in the regular Texas legislative session, will go into effect on Sept. 1 and will limit the penalties insurance companies could face if they don’t pay enough in claims. This means that should an insurance company pay claims late because of a lawsuit, the company will have to pay a penalty of 10 percent, versus the 18 percent that is required now.

It would also lessen the likelihood for insurance providers to pay plaintiff’s attorney fees and it would protect individual insurance agents from the disadvantages that come with being personally sued.

The new law does not affect the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association or federal flood insurance.

The bill is often referred to as “hailstorm lawsuit reform,” but has a much wider scope that includes natural disasters such as the flooding going on throughout Texas.

During the debate on the bill, Sen. John Whitmire, D-Houston, said this would severely impact Texans during natural disasters.

“I think we will hear from our constituents across the state when we have storms and natural disasters,” he said. “I think people are going to be in for a real surprise that we’re changing the current practice.”

Lawyers and consumer rights group Texas Watch are encouraging those who plan to file claims to notify in writing their insurance providers of their claims prior to Friday.

The author of HB 1774, Sen. Kelly Hancock, R-North Richland Hills, said his legislation will not change how claims are processed.

"There is no need to rush to file a claim," he said in a statement. "Put your safety first. Do not return to seriously damaged property unless you are informed that it is safe."

Those with damage can also file for aid here from the Federal Emergency Management Agency within Aransas, Bee, Brazoria, Calhoun, Chambers, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Harris, Jackson, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Neuces, Refugio, San Patricio, Victoria and Wharton counties.

People without internet access may sign up by calling (800) 621-FEMA (3362).

FEMA assistance can include funding for the following purposes:

  • rental payments for temporary housing for displaced individuals

  • grants for home repairs and replacement of essential household items not covered by insurance

  • grants to replace personal property and to help meet disaster-related needs not covered by insurance

  • unemployment payments up to 26 weeks for workers who temporarily lost jobs because of the disaster

  • low-interest loans to cover residential losses not fully compensated by insurance

  • loans up to $2 million for small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and most private, nonprofit organizations

  • loans up to $500,000 for farmers, ranchers and aquaculture operators to cover production and property losses

  • crisis counseling for those traumatized by the disaster

FEMA is also encouraging individuals to take photos of their homes, of both the interior and exterior, prior to starting any clean-up efforts.

Editor's note: This story has been updated for clarity.


A sunrise event in The Woodlands will commemorate the life of George Floyd.
(Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
Event planned at sunrise in Northshore Park June 7 to remember George Floyd

The nonstructured event will begin with an opening prayer at 6:30 a.m.

About 60,000 people gathered in downtown Houston at a June 2 march to to honor George Floyd. Some Friendswood ISD alumni are holding a march on June 6. (Adriana Rezal/Community Impact Newspaper)
Friendswood ISD alumni to hold protest honoring George Floyd

The protest will begin at the parking lot at the corner of FM 2351 and S. Friendswood Drive.

Council Member Letitia Plummer presented budget amendments calling for police reforms June 4 in the wake of widespread public outcry following the death of George Floyd. (Emma Whalen/Community Impact Newspaper)
Houston City Council member calls for reduction in police positions, tougher oversight and more training

The proposals are the first set of reforms to be formally put forward by a city council member.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates for Katy-area readers. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
June 5 data shows increase of 37 confirmed COVID-19 cases for Katy area

There are a total of 1,178 confirmed positive coronavirus cases across the seven Katy-area ZIP codes, according to data available at 4:40 p.m. June 5.

TDCJ will report inmate COVID-19 case information on its dashboard moving forward. (Community Impact staff)
Brazoria County will no longer report, track TDCJ inmate COVID-19 cases

TDCJ will report inmate COVID-19 case information on its dashboard moving forward.

1: East Shore Landing (Andrew Christman/Community Impact Newspaper)
3 development updates to watch in The Woodlands: East Shore, Gosling Road and Timberloch Place

Construction is moving ahead on several projects in The Woodlands area, including a shopping center set to finish work this month and a community in the East Shore area.

The Tomball ISD board of trustees hosts a virtual workshop June 8 and a virtual meeting June 9. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Tomball ISD board to adopt 2020-21 budget, hear fall 2020 plans

The agenda for TISD workshop meeting June 8 includes Salazar-Zamora giving a report on the fall 2020 plan.

Here are the latest coronavirus updates from Fort Bend County. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Fort Bend County reports 85 new cases June 5, more than yesterday's record number

This is the second day in a row the county has reported more than 80 cases.

Ivy Point Cypress, a resort-style community on Mueschke Road for individuals age 55 and older, will be ready for move-ins July 1, officials said. (Courtesy Ivy Point Cypress)
DEVELOPMENT UPDATES: Three Cy-Fair area multifamily projects slated to open this summer

Multifamily projects in the Cy-Fair area are moving forward through the coronavirus pandemic, with several projects slated for completion this summer.

Protesters peacefully gathered in downtown Conroe on May 31. (Andy Li/Community Impact Newspaper)
This week in photos, May 31-June 6: Black Lives Matter protests sweep across Montgomery County

Peaceful protests took place in Conroe, The Woodlands and Kingwood.

METRO’s 402 Bellaire Quickline bus route will resume limited operation June 8. (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
METRO to resume Bellaire Quickline service June 8

METRO is gradually expanding services after restricting routes amid the COVID-19 outbreak.