Texas Disaster Outreach Program Works to Protect Storm Victims

March 1, 2016

After tornadoes ravaged the Dallas area in late December, the National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) and Texas Department of Insurance (TDI) Fraud Unit worked together to establish a new disaster outreach program, called the Catastrophe Response Team (CRT). The CRT worked with city officials and law enforcement to alert them to the warning signs for potential claims fraud by out-of-state contractors and roofers and to offer assistance. The CRT also patrolled storm-damaged neighborhoods in the Dallas area to talk with homeowners, roofers, and contractors.

“After a weather catastrophe, cities are swarming with roofing contractors, public adjusters, and others who are knocking on doors, leaving business cards and roaming affected neighborhoods looking to cash in on the disaster,” said Fred Lohmann of the NICB. “All cities and counties have the authority to prevent
and enforce unlawful solicitation by such individuals.”

The storms resulted in the loss of 13 lives and over $1.2 billion in estimated damages. Unfortunately, out-of-state roofing contractors and public adjusters began descending on the area to take advantage of consumers at their most vulnerable moment. Consumers were then faced with being harassed by door-to-
door solicitors looking to take advantage of the situation.

Officials in Rowlett and Garland, two cities that were heavily damaged by the tornadoes, implemented city ordinances that required building contractors to register with each city to obtain a permit. Initially, no permits for out of state contractors were issued allowing homeowners time to fully assess the damage to th
eir homes, meet with insurance adjusters to go over their claims, obtain immediate financial assistance from their insurance companies when needed and seek qualified building contractors for repairs.

“Last year, Texas had more than $3.2 billion in losses due to catastrophic events such as tornadoes and hailstorms, resulting in over 460,000 claims across the state,” said Mark Hanna, a spokesperson for the Insurance Council of Texas (ICT). “These totals illustrate the number and severity of the storms in Texas, and unfortunately also mean that there are likely many opportunities for unlicensed and less than reputable individuals to try and take advantage of consumers.”

Spring is traditionally the season for severe weather in Texas and consumers need to be on the lookout for this type of activity by contractors and public adjusters after a storm. Also, consumers need to be aware of laws prohibiting public adjusters from receiving any direct or indirect financial benefit from construction firms, paying or receiving referral fees from any third-party, or soliciting employment for the sole purpose of referring homeowners to an attorney.

“I visited the area after the storms and saw first-hand the destroyed homes and vehicles, and folks trying to make sense of what to do next. The last thing those affected by a storm need is someone misleading and taking advantage of a difficult situation for their own personal gain. The vast majority of insurance claims are resolved amicably between homeowners and their insurance companies, and these dishonest actors only help to delay and confuse the insurance claims process,” Hanna said.

Source: Insurance Council of Texas

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