As is their custom, several major insurance companies have recently announced that they will be raising Texas insurance rates across the board. Last month, the Houston Chronicle reported that Farmers Insurance plans a 3.9 percent statewide hike that will affect about 324,000 Texas customers. Farmers stated that the increase was “in response to increasing costs of paying claims, especially weather related claims.” Farmers Insurance customers will see the increase take effect starting March 16, 2011.
Texas and Florida insurance companies wanting to preserve coverage disagreements and dispute appraisal awards have one thing in common–requests for itemized appraisal awards. Insurance policies have no provision for such itemizations. In construction practice, nobody accepts or places bids with the lowest line by line bid. Only the bottom line counts. Even in jury trials, the itemization of jury verdicts is far shorter than what the insurance companies are having their attorneys ask for in front of judges.
Recently, I was discussing my job with a non-lawyer friend. I told him that I typically pursue claims against insurance companies on behalf of policyholders for a variety of reasons, including “unfair insurance practices.” At that point, he asked about “unfair insurance practices” because he didn’t know what that meant. His question made me think about how lawyers use terms such “unfair insurance practices” when communicating with clients without ever considering that their clients may not actually know what those terms mean. For my friend’s benefit, and anyone else who does not already know what “unfair insurance practices” means, here is some of what “unfair insurance practices” encompasses.
The Texas Supreme Court released an interesting ruling recently. Many were intrigued by it because it appeared to be counterintuitive at first glance. In State Farm Lloyds et al. v. Page, No. 08-0799, 2010 WL 2331460 (Tex. June 11, 2010), the Court decided that mold damage to a woman’s personal property was covered in a standard homeowner’s insurance policy, but damage to her home was not.
I have previously written about how an insurance company can waive its right to appraisal by taking too long to invoke it, but are there other ways an insurance company can waive its right to an appraisal? For example, does an insurance company waive its right to appraisal when it recognizes some but not all of the damages claimed by the insured? What if the insurer anticipatorily breaches the insurance contract? The United States District Court for the Southern District of Texas recently weighed in on this issue in Boone v. Safeco Ins. Co. of Indiana, No. H-09-1613, 2010 WL 2303311 (S.D. Tex. June 7, 2010).
Continue Reading Waiver of Right to an Appraisal in Texas: Additional Arguments
It’s a sad truth that building owners have to worry about burglars breaking into their buildings to steal copper wire and pipes. Many insurance companies don’t cover damage as a result of theft, but a lot of them do cover any damage related to burglars breaking in and exiting a building. However, a recent case from the Texas Court of Appeals demonstrates that you may not be covered for everything you thought you were.
American Economy Insurance Company, a Safeco subsidiary, takes different positions on appraisal and litigation in Texas. While American Economy refused to abate discovery in a matter I am litigating, it unsuccessfully argued to abate formal litigation discovery in another case, Tran v. Am. Econ. Ins. Co., 2010 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 66283 (S.D. Tex. July 2, 2010).
The appraisal process has been around for a long time, and it is not going anywhere anytime soon. In fact, records indicate that the Texas Supreme Court has enforced appraisal clauses in insurance policies as far back as 1888. Typically, appraisal clauses do not specify a time frame for when a party can invoke the appraisal process. Many of you out there might think that this means that a carrier can invoke the appraisal process whenever it wants. However, that is not necessarily the case.
A recent order from Galveston County regarding the TWIA litigation specifically names the TWIA representatives who will be deposed and the manner in which the depositions will take place. Suffice it to say that it is no easy challenge preparing for these depositions (see attached order). As members of the Plaintiff’s Ike committee, the members of our firm have read and catalogued thousands of TWIA documents, emails, correspondence and forms in preparation for these depositions. We are expecting more as the depositions start.
The Texas policyholder bar representing Texas "Slabbers" met yesterday in Galveston. The bottom line for those with the most significantly destroyed buildings is that these cases and the litigation discovery is being coordinated and will be moving much quicker.