Property Damage Caused by Hurricane Harvey: Documenting Your Losses
Hurricane Harvey Homeowner's Claim Lawyer
For many homeowners, the recovery from damages caused by Hurricane Harvey
will mark their first dealings with their property insurance company.
In this section of our series of posts dealing with recovering from the
effects of Hurricane Harvey, the property damage claim lawyer at the Doan
Law Firm will explain how to best document your property losses in a manner
that will satisfy the most demanding of insurance carriers.
Inventory of insured property
Many homeowners’ and renters’ insurance require that the policyholder
submit an inventory of all property that will be covered under the proposed
insurance coverage. If that was indeed the case, your insurer will have
a general idea of the damages you suffered and will only require a report
from one of its investigators or claims adjusters before offering to settle
your claim. If you were not required to provide an inventory, or your
inventory was not “up to date,” there are certain actions
that you can take that will assist you in filing your damage claim.
- Visually document your damage
If you had the presence of mind to make a video (“still pictures”
will do) of your property before Harvey came through, you should make
a copy of your documentation to support your “pre-Harvey”
property. Even if you do not have such pre-damage documentation, you should
still make a record of your losses. At the Doan Law Firm, we will be glad
to suggest what form of documentation is best in case a lawsuit should
be filed later.
- Statements from neighbors or family members
If your lawyer feels it to be necessary, statements from your neighbors
or family members can attest to both the pre-hurricane status of your
property and the impact that such damage has made in your personal life
and in your work environment.
- Statements from business relationships
Another source of documentation for your losses can be statements made
by those who either sold you the damaged items or that maintained them
for you prior to Harvey. If you used your personal vehicle or any other
personal property as part of your regular employment, such statements
may lead to a higher settlement.
Once you have documented the extent of your losses, it is time to file
your claim with your insurer. When you file your claim, you should have
a general understanding of the following terms:
The appraised value of an insured property can be defined as either “what
you paid” for an item or “what someone else” would have
been willing to pay for the same item if Harvey had not trashed the Texas
coast. In practical terms, the appraised value of an item is usually the
amount of money that a bank or lender would be willing to loan in order
for you to purchase that property or item.
As its name implies, the replacement value of an insured item is what it
will cost to replace some item with another item of equal value and that
replacement will serve the same function as the original. In the real
world, “replacement” and/or “repair” costs are
often used interchangeably even though they have distinct meanings to
an insurance lawyer. As a rule of thumb, “replacement” usually
means that an object is damaged beyond the point of reasonable repair
and the insurer must cover the costs associated with the purchase of a
In insurance law, a repair cost is the amount of money required to restore
your original property to “working condition” rather than
replacing it with a newly-purchased item. This is a frequent source of
contention and may lead to a lawsuit if the insured feels that they are
entitled to having something replaced rather than repaired. In these cases,
it will usually be necessary to hire a lawyer to explore your rights regarding
replacement versus repair, particularly if the damaged item is essential
for your employment.
In summary, the “secret” to a generous property damage insurance
settlement is being able to document the extent of your losses. In many
cases, the “wording” used in a homeowner’s insurance
policy is clear regarding what is a covered versus an uncovered loss.
There are, and will certainly be future, cases where an insurer will be
tempted to “undervalue” a claim despite the company’s
legal obligations as set forth in its contract (policy) with you.
If you feel that your insurer is not working in your best interests, you
are within your rights to retain the services of a property damage insurance
lawyer. At the Doan Law Firm, we will work with you to ensure that you
receive a fair, prompt settlement of your disputed insurance claim. Your
first consultation with us is always free and we are willing to make any
financial that may be necessary to help get you back onto your feet and
into the comfort of your home.
The Doan Law Firm of Houston (833) FLOOD-LAWYER 1 Riverway Suite 2325 Houston,
Texas 77056 (832) 835-0000