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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:

  • Appraised value

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.

  • Replacement value

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 new object.

  • Repair costs

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

Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Lawyer

After an accident, the responsible party's insurance company may try to reduce the claim amount. Commonly, insurance adjusters are trained to get information from the injured to assist in reducing the claim. Though some insurers are less guilty of this practice than others, it is important to realize that insurance companies are profit-oriented corporations and reducing claims results in increased profits for shareholders. This can create a situation for the injured in which they are offered a settlement that does not truly reflect the damages suffered. If you accept this settlement, you lose the ability to get more money should your injuries require further medical treatments. It is critical that victims get legal assistance in any personal injury case, and The Doan Law Firm is prepared to fight relentlessly for your rights.

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