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Texas Department of Insurance

Summaries of the News Releases for 2005-2006


In the Event of a Loss Covered by Insurance

News Release Date: 1/25/2006
Category:   Disaster/Storms

As the recent wildfire situation in Texas has shown, a disaster can occur in any part of the state and often with little or no warning. Planning ahead can help you protect yourself, your family, and your property in the event of a disaster.

Insurance offers financial protection against damage from natural disasters, but you need the right kind of insurance in the proper amounts. The following information can help you understand your coverage and protect your interests if you have to file a claim.

Be Prepared
Review your insurance coverage. Itís a good idea to keep an inventory of the items you own. Photograph or videotape each room and the exterior of your home. List serial numbers on the items if possible. Keep your inventory, your insurance policy, and any other important documents in a safe deposit box or other secure spot. If your home or property is damaged, accurate records can help speed up the claims process and can help prove tax-deductible uninsured losses.

Make certain your homeowners or commercial property coverage is still in force and that it provides adequate coverage to pay the full replacement cost of your property. Read your policy carefully! Make sure you understand what the policy does and does not cover and what your policyís limits are. You may have to buy separate policies to cover wind, hail, and flood damage.

Auto insurance. State law requires all drivers to maintain liability insurance, which pays for injuries and damages you cause to other people and their cars. Liability coverage does not pay for any type of damage to your own vehicle, however. You will need to purchase additional coverage known as "comprehensive" to protect your vehicle from damage caused by hail, flood, fire, or theft.

After the Covered Loss
When itís safe to do so, check your house and car for damage. Contact your insurance agent or company promptly to report damage. Follow immediately with a written claim to protect your rights under Texasī prompt-payment law.
Homeowners and renters policies pay for debris removal and for temporary additional living expenses if you have to move because your home is uninhabitable due to damage or loss of use as a result of a covered peril. This coverage reimburses you for food or lodging expenses while your home is unlivable or while it is being repaired.

Make reasonable and necessary temporary repairs to protect your home and property from further damage. Cover broken windows and holes to keep rain out. Do not make permanent repairs before a claims adjuster inspects the damage. Keep a record of your repair expenses and save all receipts. Photograph the damage. Try to be present when the adjuster inspects your damage. You may have your contractor present at the inspection or have the contractor review the adjusterís report before settling the claim. Donít accept an unfair settlement.

Resolving Your Claim
Your insurance company must acknowledge that it has begun an investigation within 15 days of receiving your claim. The company may request any additional information needed to resolve your claim. Once it has the information, the company must notify you in writing of the acceptance or rejection of your claim within 15 business days or tell you why it needs more time. The claims handling deadlines may be extended for certain weather-related or other natural disasters.

Automobile and homeowners policies allow you or the company to demand an appraisal to resolve some claim disputes. Review your policy for a description of the appraisal process and to learn which disputes can be resolved through appraisal. Once all differences are settled, the company has five business days to mail you a check. Surplus lines carriers have 20 days to pay. If you do not receive your payment promptly, call your agent. If you have questions about your claim, call TDI.
Work with reputable contractors. Ask contractors for references and verify them. Contact your Better Business Bureau, local police, or Chamber of Commerce for information. Insist on an itemized contract in writing and pay only as work is completed. The Texas Deceptive Trade Practices Act prohibits price gouging once the governor has declared an area a "disaster area." If you suspect price-gouging or any other deceptive business practice, call the Office of the Attorney Generalís Consumer Protection Hot Line at 1-800-337-3928.

For More Information
If you have questions about insurance, call TDIís Consumer Help Line at 1-800-252-3439 or visit the TDI website at

To report a suspicious fire to the Arson/Burn Ban Hotline, call 1-877-434-7345.

To report a case of suspected fraud, call 1-888-327-8818.

You may file a complaint with TDI in a variety of ways:
* by completing the online complaint form on TDIís website;
* by e-mail at:;
* by fax at 512-475-1771;
* by mail at:
Texas Department of Insurance
Consumer Protection Program
P.O. Box 149091
Austin, TX 78714-9091





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