September 30, 2022

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Winter storm victims dealing with stalling insurance companies

The latest state data show about 10% of claims are still unresolved.

TEXAS, USA — The Texas winter storm hit home for millions of Texans who lost power, and one year later, thousands are still out of their homes as they continue to battle with their insurance company to make repairs.

RELATED: Grieving families face long legal battle one year after deadly Texas winter storm

Walk into Heather Gragg’s four-bedroom League City home, and it’s somewhat frozen in time. Walls are partially left down to the studs, and a gaping hole remains in a closet where a busted pipe sent water gushing everywhere.

“Basically, we went through five different adjusters,” Gragg said. “This adjuster doesn’t handle this kind of stuff, this adjuster does, or this adjuster isn’t in your region.”

During that ping-pong of a process, storm damage repairs were on hold.

“Nothing was being done,” Gragg said.

RELATED: State of the state’s power grid: Would another deep freeze bring blackouts again?

Across town in the Champions area, home video shows what Marti Hovater came home to last February — water pouring from nearly every light fixture on the first floor. It wasn’t just one busted pipe that did the damage, but 28 broken pipes.

“I’m thinking ‘oh my gosh,’” Hovater said.

She said the insurance offer was about half of what was needed to get her home to pre-storm conditions.

“It’s mentally draining. It’s physically draining. It’s emotionally draining,” Hovater said. “It’s just been hell.”

 According to the state’s department of insurance, 500,196 insurance claims were filed related to the winter storm with an expected $10.3 billion in insured losses to be paid from the event. The agency’s latest available data, as of July 31, 2021, shows approximately 10% percent of those were still open.

“The insurance companies obviously have an incentive to save money,” said attorney John Black, whose law firm has handled more than 100 winter storm cases. “In an event like this, that is really financially catastrophic to the insurers, they’re looking for ways to save on claims. And that can be sometimes dragging the claim out or not paying things that they normally would or finding ways to cut corners.”

It leaves policyholders who’ve paid their premiums on time, all the time, financially out in the cold.

“It’s not right at all,” Gragg said. “I mean, it’s just crazy honestly.”

Gragg sued her insurer, Zurich American, which declined to comment on the pending litigation. Hovater filed suit against Geovera Specialty insurance, which did not return requests for comment.

https://www.khou.com/article/news/investigations/texas-winter-storm-victims-insurance-limbo/285-a314639c-b320-4bfe-a32c-dbd17e52d614