“Once again, a storm has devastated a region and broken records. Hurricane Harvey dropped so much rain on Texas, the National Weather Service had to add new colors to its map graphics. Where will the money come from to repair the damage?

If Sandy is a predictor, households are facing a severely diminished quality of life, grinding frustration, a long slog applying for grants and aid, and way too little insurance funding in relation to the premiums they’ve been paying.

Unless wind, sewer, or drain backup and/or another covered cause can be identified, Harvey survivors in Texas will have a very hard time collecting home insurance funds for repairing and recovering. Estimating flood losses accurately is always challenging, and the enormous scale of the devastation will bring shortages of qualified contractors, drywall, and experienced claim adjusters. Thousands of Katrina and Sandy survivors struggled due to inaccurate and lowball damage estimates. Harvey’s projected 400,000 FEMA aid registrations will dwarf Sandy’s 120,000.

 A further complicating factor in Texas is the fact that tort reformers got their way in the legislature just this year and set up even more obstacles for limited-income consumers who want to fight back against insurer misconduct, such as lowballing on damage estimates. The ability to hire a lawyer on contingency and recover damages is the most potent leverage a consumer has when seeking a fair outcome with a recalcitrant and powerful insurer. Thanks to tort reformers, Texas residents just lost a chunk of that leverage.

That’s all the bad news. The good news is the hearts and minds of our nation are focused on helping the Lone Star State heal. Forward we go.”  “

Amy Bach, Esq. is co-founder of United Policyholders, official consumer representative to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners and a member of the Federal Advisory Committee on Insurance

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