The Great Texas Freeze Revisited

The Great Texas Freeze Revisited
  • Its been about 4.5 months since the great Texas winter freeze.
  • The storm caused tremendous physical property damage throughout the State.
  • If your insurance company still has not compensated you for that damage, you can file a lawsuit. But there are strict notice provisions you must give before you file.

Its hot in Texas. This week has been sweltering. But the good news is we only have a little over 4 months until November. It almost makes me long for the cool (cold) days of February. Almost.

Its been almost 4.5 months since the February great freeze. It was a brutal time for us – at least 151 of our fellow Texans died because of the storm. And, of course, there was tremendous damage to residential and commercial property.

This week, I want to take a look back at the storm, assess the damage that was done, and see where we have to go from here.

The Details

In case you do not remember, in the middle of February, it got brutally cold in Texas. In Austin, on Monday, February 15, temperatures fell into the single digits. Accompanying that temperature drop was lots of snow and ice.

I know that does not seem abnormal for the northerners who may read this blog, but for us it was brutal. We were just thoroughly unprepared for temperatures in that range. As a result, our energy plants froze and many people – including me – were without power for up to five days.

As stated above, at least 151 people died during the storm. And there was lots of physical damage to buildings when pipes burst and ice pierced buildings.

Insurance Claims Filed

As a result of that damage, there were a lot of insurance claims filed. In April, there was speculation that total damages would likely be between $10 and $20 billion. One common damage for residential home owners, for example, was to have their exterior tankless water heater explode. That’s what happened at my house.

Similarly, many commercial buildings throughout the state had burst pipes that caused significant water damage. In early April, the Texas Department of Insurance released a study that insurance companies had paid out $1.7 billion in damages by that time. It has undoubtedly risen since.

But Some Didn’t Pay

But not all insurance companies have paid out their claims. You can see from the numbers above – estimated damages are $10-20 billion but only 10% of that has been paid out so far. As with any large loss, some insurance companies have been hesitant to pay what they owe.

As a Texas property owner, what do you do in that situation? There are basically two solutions –

1) Demand appraisal or

2) File a lawsuit.

Appraisal is a process where you hire an appraiser and the insurance company hires an appraiser and they try to agree on the amount of damages. If they cannot, they agree to hire a third, independent umpire who will come to an agreement on damages with at least one of the appraisers.

Appraisal can be a helpful process – especially for smaller claims by residential homeowners. But for any larger claims – especially commercial claims – we always recommend filing a lawsuit. In a lawsuit, you have a lot more control over your claim and you can help determine what the damages are and if and when you should settle with the insurance company.

But before you file a lawsuit, please make sure you are aware of the Texas notice rules. A few years ago, the Texas legislature enacted a strict notice provision that must be given to insurance companies before filing suit against them. There are a lot of technical requirements that go into the notice so its very important to get a lawyer that is versed in those requirements.

The February freeze was a brutal storm that caused significant property damage. And whenever there is an event like that, some insurance companies will try to avoid their responsibilities. So if you are still fighting your insurance company, please give Bukowski Law Firm a call at 512-614-0335 and we can help.

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