An insurance process that was meant to help Texans rebuild after a hurricane was redesigned by state lawmakers eight years ago, and in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, that redesign is being put to the test.
6 Investigates spoke with one local nonprofit group that that is fighting for some of that insurance money, and it said the new system is flawed.
On most days after school, the Boys and Girls Club of the Coastal Bend is a lively place, but Hurricane Harvey put a damper on things.
“Every time it would rain, a new spot would pop up that it was leaking,” said Kim Barrientos, CEO of the Boys and Girls Clubs of the Coastal Bend. “There really wasn’t any room in the facility that didn’t have some kind of leaking or water damage.”
The club filed a claim with the Texas Windstorm Association, and over the next several weeks, things got worse, Barrientos said.
Every time it rained, water collected in buckets at the club and soaked desks. The gym floor would get so wet it disrupted after-school activities for about 200 children, she said.
A few weeks later, Barrientos received notice that TWIA had denied most of the club’s roof repairs.
TWIA sent a check for about $150,000, but the money wasn’t nearly enough to fix the storm damage, she said.
“We requested them to come back out and look at it,” Barrientos said, noting problems with the claim report. “I was dumb founded with some of the things they had in there. They would oversize a room or under size a room or call it by a different name or say it had carpet when it didn’t have carpet.”
TWIA did acknowledge the errors, but then asked for about half of the claim money back, she said.
At that point, the Boys and Girls Club had tough decision to make. Under the law change, the nonprofit had two options: accept the dismal claim and go through appraisal process, or dispute it and file a lawsuit.
They chose to fight. In August, the nonprofit filed a lawsuit against TWIA.
Two months into the suit, TWIA reversed its position and agreed to pay the clubs entire claim. It also asked that the lawsuit be dismissed.
That kind of behavior allows for no accountability, said a Texas consumer advocacy group.
“It’s a complicated and broken system,” said Ware Wendell, Texas Watch executive director. “With TWIA, it punishes policy holders wrongly, and it needs to be fixed.”
The Boys and Girls Club has asked TWIA to pay for attorney fees, penalties and interest. That’s the only way TWIA can be held accountable, so that a similar situation doesn’t happen to someone else, said Will Lundquist, an attorney representing the Boys & Girls Club.
“There’s a good chance at some point that a lot of the purported misdeeds by TWIA since Harvey are never going to see a courtroom in Nueces County,” Lundquist said.
As of two weeks ago, there were 287 lawsuits pending against TWIA ,according to information provided by the organization.
In response to this story, a TWIA spokesperson said the agency does not comment on pending litigation, but sent a statement that in part read:
“Any concerns about the laws governing policyholder’s dispute remedies with TWIA are matters of public policy and best left to the Texas legislature.”