TEXAS (CBSDFW.COM) – For Hurricane Harvey victims – or anyone ever at the mercy of mother nature – insurance claims are a piece of the clean-up process. And many attorneys, including Geoff Henley, want hurricane victims to file an initial claim with their insurance companies before House Bill 1774 becomes law on the first of September.
“It’s far more difficult to collect attorney’s fees, and number two, the penalties drop tremendously,” Henley says of the new law.
House Bill 1774 only applies to lawsuits filed against insurance companies. It reduces the amount of penalty interest the insurance companies have to pay for late payments – from 18 percent now to around 10 percent. But it doesn’t change the claims process and will reduce the amount of attorney’s fees the policy-holder can recover in some cases.
“Both of them are hammers to make sure that the insurance company treats you fairly and doesn’t delay paying your claim and gives you fair compensation for your claim,” Henley says.
The law will also require policyholders to give notice before filing a lawsuit. State representative Jason Villalba, who helped author the bill, says it will protect consumers.
“The lawyers are the ones who have benefitted from the old system. After September 1, the consumer is the one who will be benefitting,” he says.
Villalba says the law was put in place to reduce frivolous lawsuits from events such as natural disasters – and will put the majority of the awards in the pockets of the policy-holders.
“1774 was meant to protect those consumers from being abused by plaintiff lawyers who want to use these individuals so they can sue insurance companies to line the lawyers’ pockets,” he says.