As you assess the impact of the February winter storm, Jackson Walker attorneys can help advise you on the legal implications for your business. For additional insights and resources, visit our Winter Storm Recovery site.
Our hearts and thoughts go out to all of our employees, clients, and friends affected by the February winter storm and the devastation it caused. Your personal safety, and that of your family and loved ones, is our top priority and concern.
As your business begins to think about next steps following the winter storm, we have put together a list of some FAQs that may assist you with potential property insurance claims. Jackson Walker is committed to assisting its clients with any specific needs relating to their insurance policies so that you may get back to business quickly and safely.
When should I make a claim on my policy(ies)?
Promptly after you learn that your business has suffered damage to its property.
What if I don’t have a copy of my policy?
You do not need a copy of your policy to make a claim. Contact your broker or the insurance company directly; they can likely look up your policy by your company’s name, principal address, and other identifying information to begin the claims process.
What information do I need to provide to my insurance company?
Describe the damage to your property. Also let them know whether your business operations have been impacted by the storm (e.g. locations closed). The insurer will ultimately need additional information and documentation to process the claim. Accordingly, you should preserve any damaged property and document your losses, including photographing or videoing damage to your property when it is safe for you to do so.
When should I expect to hear from an adjuster?
In the event of a catastrophe or natural disaster, insurance companies are statutorily required to contact you within 30 days after you make a claim (an additional 15 days beyond the normal deadline). Practically, they will likely contact you much sooner, but may prioritize claims based on the severity of each insured’s damage.
Do I have coverage for the damage to my business property?
The terms of your policy may vary, but standard business property policies will often cover weather-related damage (e.g. water damage from leaks caused by frozen pipes).
Will my policies cover losses resulting from interruption of my business due to the storm?
If you could not operate your business at your property due to damage from burst pipes or other causes of loss that are covered by your business property policy, then you may also be insured for business interruption losses if you purchased that coverage. This type of coverage often has “waiting periods” before coverage applies as well as other conditions and limitations stated in the policy.
Can/should I start making temporary repairs and/or removing damaged items from my home or business?
To the extent the damage to your home or business is covered by your insurance policy, the insurance company will want to have some evidence showing the property damage. However, it is also expected that, as long as it is safe for you to do so, you will take reasonable steps to mitigate further damage to your home. Accordingly, here are some guidelines to keep in mind:
Preventing further damage: If you can safely make or hire someone to make temporary repairs to prevent further damage to your home or business:
- inform your insurance company that you plan to do so (in writing if possible);
- DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Take pictures/videos of the damaged areas which show the need for the temporary repairs. Also keep all receipts, invoices, and other evidence showing the costs of these repairs so that your insurer can take those into account when handling your claim; and
- if possible, retain any materials that are removed from your home or business (e.g. carpet) for later inspection by the insurance company;
Making your house safe to inhabit: Same general rule as above. Keep in mind, however, that if your house is uninhabitable, you may have coverage for additional living expenses too (e.g. hotel, restaurant, etc.). Also, if possible such repairs should be limited to making the affected room(s) safe, not to completely repair them.
Other repairs?: If they can wait (i.e. there is no safety or further damage issue), it is generally best to allow the insurance company to inspect your home or business before undertaking such repairs.
- Texas Department of Insurance after the storm recovery tips.
- Texas Department of Insurance resource to find your insurance agent’s contact information: texas.gov/NASApp/tdi/TdiARManager.
- Texans can apply for federal aid for damage not covered by insurance at disasterassistance.gov. Select the cause of damage snow/ice amongst other damages that may have occurred.
Please note: This article and any resources presented on the Jackson Walker Winter Storm Recovery site are for informational purposes only, do not constitute legal advice, and are not a substitute for legal advice from qualified counsel. The laws of other states and nations may be entirely different from what is described. Your use of these materials does not create an attorney-client relationship between you and Jackson Walker. The facts and results of each case will vary, and no particular result can be guaranteed.