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I was recently interviewed by REDnews to help educate commercial property owners know what to do if they’ve incurred damage due to the recent storm. The article is below. If you want to view it in the magazine, you can view it here.

For a state that has weathered its share of storms, Texas was unprepared for the record-setting deep freeze that hit in mid-February and the initially estimated $50 billion in damages.

“According to Enki Research disaster modeler Chuck Watson, the severe weather event could cost as much as $90 billion, making this the largest insurance claim event in history,” said public insurance adjuster Scott Friedson, CEO of Insurance Claim Recovery Support (ICRS).

REDnews connected with Friedson while he was making the trek to Houston, where he was slated to inspect more than 35 different properties that week.

“There is no insurance risk model that accounts for a catastrophic loss to an entire state, especially the state of Texas,” he says.

Hurricanes, Friedson explains, typically cause damage along the coast. Even a hail storm or tornado has limited exposure. The freeze, on the other hand, stretched from the westernmost point of Texas to its easternmost point.

Floor Damage Caused By Texas Winter Weather“Many property owners are juggling pipe repairs, water damage mitigation, satiating tenant demands and dealing with their insurance claims simultaneously,” says Friedson, who exclusively commercial represents and multifamily owners, as well as management companies. “The carriers’ adjusters are coming as quickly as they can as policyholders are grappling with understanding their policy, as well as their contractual obligations in order to ensure a fair and prompt settlement”

Typical policy language requires policyholders to “take all reasonable steps to protect the Covered Property from further damage, and keep a record of your expenses necessary to protect the Covered Property, for consideration in the settlement of the claim.”

Fully understanding and interpreting what “all reasonable steps to protect from further damage” means could leave policyholders in a vulnerable and adversarial position with their insurer, putting their claims in jeopardy, receive the full amount they deserve. It’s why public adjusters, like Friedson, play such a vital role. He is licensed and bonded by the state and, in his role, represents policyholders’ interests, not those of the insurance company.

“When water damage occurs, we advise our clients to immediately put your insurer on notice of a claim,” he says. “We go through the policy and determine if only one deductible applies regardless of the number of locations, professional fee sub-limits and we make ourselves available to meet the carrier’s representative as soon as possible to get the process moving forward.”

Friedson says the primary issue he’s seen is water mitigation due to burst pipes. While property owners are understandably concerned about getting plumbers to fix the broken pipes, he worries they’re ignoring the proper mitigation needed to prevent further damage.

“While they’re focused on repairs to keep tenants happy and retain occupancy in their buildings, they’re not engaging water extraction mitigation companies as quickly as they should,” Friedson says. “That means they run the risk of getting mold, which may not be covered under the policy. Even if it is covered as ensuing damage, typically there are both conditions and limits on how much can get covered.”

According to board-certified policyholder commercial insurance attorney Shannon Loyd, if mold goes over the amount of a policy limit and it grew because of the delay in the investigation, then the overage amount is an independent injury.

“One of the biggest issues we see is policyholders fear their insurer will dispute full payment of the water mitigation bill,” advises Loyd. “Water mitigation contractors understandably have the challenge of defining the full scope and cost until they inspect and moisture map affected areas not visible to the naked eye. So they typically provide time and material costs. Insurers are reluctant to approve vendor-published price lists, leaving policyholders vulnerable and exposed.

She adds that many large commercial policyholders have in-house or third-party contractor resources they trust and don’t want to get burned by an outside water mitigation company.

“We get it, but there is a method to managing risk while also performing your contractual duty in your policy to mitigate, prevent further damage andThis Commercial Building's Floor is Under Water maximize your insurance claim,” says Loyd. “Using untrained and uncertified crews to tear out contaminated materials, can result in an improper dry out, create cross-contamination liability and mold issues for property owners.”

To ensure a water mitigation vendor will defend their work to your insurer, moving any obligation you pay any additional cost, Friedson and Loyd encourage clients to ask their insurer to help provide resources. Try to get upfront approval before engaging a third-party water mitigation contractor or consultant.

  • Look for a water mitigation contractor using professional certified restoration/remediation crews that implement S500 and S520 Restoration industry standards set by the IICRC process
  • Document every part of the process to hedge risk and ensure maximum settlement in minimum

If that all sounds like a lot, that’s because it is. Friedson handles all that when he’s engaged early in the process, though he knows he’ll soon get calls from property owners unsatisfied by how the process is moving along with their carriers. Friedson has considerable experience stepping up when needed at any point in that process. Best of all, there is no fee for his services if there’s no recovery. That, he emphasizes, has never happened.

For more information about public adjuster Scott Friedson or Insurance Claim Recovery Support, visit InsuranceClaimRecoverySupport.com

The original article was written for REDnews by Brandi Smith

AUSTIN, Texas – May 21, 2015 – PRLog — Insurance Claim Recovery Support LLC, a leading licensed public insurance adjusting firm in Austin, Texas urges policyholders dealing with storm damage property in the Counties of Harris, Travis, Brazoria, Montgomery, Fort Bend, Tarrant, Dallas, and Johnson from weather-related events occurring April 16, 2015, through April 19, 2015, to be aware of the following insurance claim essentials:

Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) has declared these events catastrophe for the purpose of claims processing.  Per Texas insurance code 542.059, claim-handling deadlines under this subchapter are extended for an additional 15 days.

TDI Bulletin #B-0014-14 reminds insurers, insurance adjusters, and public insurance adjusters that House Bill 1183, effective September 1, 2013, establishes prohibited conduct of insurance adjusters, public insurance adjusters, and roofing contractors.

Roofers and contractors are prohibited from acting or advertising to adjust claims for any property for which the contractor is providing or may provide roofing services, regardless of whether the contractor holds a license to adjust insurance claims.  A roofer or contractor may not advocate on behalf of a consumer or discuss insurance policy coverages and exclusions. See FAQ regarding unlicensed individuals and entities adjusting claims and TX statute 4102.163.

Consumers are urged to keep the following in mind:
· Texas does not require roofers to be licensed. Be careful of any roofer or association that states they have a roofer license or claims to be a licensing entity.

·       Be wary if a contractor tells you of their experience in settling insurance claims or in dealing with insurance carriers and adjusters. Contractors are expressly prohibited from negotiating your claim with the insurance company and, other than providing and/or explaining an estimate to repair the damages that occurred, they should not be involved in the claim process.

·       Read contracts carefully before signing them. If the fine print says that you are authorizing the contractor to deal with the insurance company on your behalf, you can assume that the contractor is ignoring the requirements of the law above.

·       Do not sign contracts that assign all or a portion of an unsettled claim to the contractor and do not sign contracts that do not have a stated price for doing the work. Often we see contracts where the work will be done for “insurance proceeds recovered.” Many jurisdictions have found these contracts to be invalid because they do not state the exact price that is to be paid.

·       Do not sign contracts that require you to pay a contractor a percentage of the amount recovered in the claim if either party decides to cancel the contract. This is often a sign that the contractor plans to get involved in the negotiation of the claim in violation of Texas law.

·       Don’t become a victim of fraud schemes such as “Roofing deductible assistance programs.” See BBB investigation of Roofing Deductible Schemes.

Contractors are Vendors for the insured.  Public Adjusters are Agents for the insured who act solely on behalf of a homeowner or commercial building owner to negotiate the settlement of an insurance claim in a non-litigious manner.

Only Public Adjusters are licensed by the state department of insurance to advocate for the policyholder in negotiating first-party insurance claims.  A Public Adjuster settles claims for loss or damage under any policy of insurance covering real or personal property, usually for a fraction of the time and expense of an attorney. If you find yourself in a dispute with your insurance company, we encourage consumers to contact a Public Adjuster.

TDI investigates written complaints of persons (including but not limited to an individual, corporation, association, or other legal entity engaged in the business of insurance, including an agent, broker, adjuster per 541.002) violating the Insurance Code. Violating Insurance Code Chapters 4101 and 4102 may result in criminal penalties and license denial, suspension, revocation or fines.

While there are a number of good and ethical contractors, we encourage you to know your rights. Download Texas Consumer Bill of Rights for Homeowners.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the firm, its clients, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.