On May 25, 2019 a powerful EF3 tornado ripped through El Reno, Oklahoma. The National Weather Service uses the Enhanced Fujita Scale to determine the severity of a tornado that touches ground. The EF3 rated tornado reached wind speeds of up to 165 miles per hour, and it spanned 75 yards (225 feet) at its widest point.
If the aftermath of the May 25th tornado that demolished a motel (the American Budget Value Inn) and a nearby mobile home park (Highway 81 and Interstate 40), two people lost their lives and more than 29 people were injured. The large tornado traveled on the ground for almost 2.5 miles before it dissipated.
This marks the second major tornado to strike El Reno Oklahoma in recent years, and the May 31, 2013 tornado produced the widest tornado on record in the United States. The 2013 El Reno tornado was 2.6 miles wide and traveled at an average speed of 50 miles per hour. After traveling for over 16 miles on the ground, it left a path on the land that could be seen from space. The disaster killed eight people and injured another 151.
In the wake of violent storms and heavy rain that impacted Oklahoma in the month of May, millions of dollars of commercial and residential properties were damaged. For some residents in El Reno, this marks the second recent catastrophic property loss in a short period of time, and property owners will be looking to their insurance providers for replacement and possible injury claims. And for our legal team, this is also personal, because El Reno is home.
What obstacles can residents of Oklahoma face when making multiple loss claims against their home or auto insurance providers? Can the insurance company decline a flood or natural disaster claim, if there have been frequent claims within the last few years? With additional seasonal storms predicted for May and early June, how can homeowners, renters and property owners protect themselves against declined compensation from their insurance provider(s)?
At Compton Law Firm, our legal team are experts in insurance bad faith cases. We would like to review some of the important steps that the public should take, after sustaining personal loss, injury or property damage as a result of violent storms, tornados and flooding.
Tricks and Tactics Used by Insurance Companies to Deny Compensation Claims
No one knows how to ‘play dirty’ better than a large insurance company. It’s difficult for those with insurance to understand how hard the company who takes your money every month for insurance coverage will work, to dispute your claim. Until you are faced with a situation where the insurer will not compensate you for your loss.
Why can insurance companies be so adamantly against their customers? Insurance companies are under more economical pressure today than ever before, due to an aging population, and increased natural disaster recovery and expenditures. For instance, did you know that on May 28th 2019, there were 55 tornados reported across eight states in America? Weather experts have called the storm activity “extremely unusual and high”.
The insurance business model is based on acquiring revenue from policy holders and investing that capital, in order to grow their assets to cover what the industry calculates as average compensatory expenditures. Thanks to unusually violent weather patterns in the past ten years, and a volatile stocks and bonds investment market, insurance companies are finding it increasingly difficult to balance profitability with the amount of money they are compensating their customers for loss.
Depending on the nature of the policy and the quality of the insurer, you can at the very least expect a strong settlement negotiation for loss and injury. At the highest end of difficulty and worst Insurance Bad Faith cases, the insurer could lead their customer to waive certain reimbursements or entitlements. And some simply refuse to pay anything, counting on the fact that for smaller claims, the cost of pursuing legal action may be a deterrent to the owner.
Common examples of Insurance Bad Faith actions taken by the insurer can include the following:
1. Reluctance or Delay in Claim Adjustment
It is the responsibility of all insurance companies to schedule a visit from a claim’s adjuster, to validate the loss, damage or injury that has been resultant from a natural disaster. This includes hail damage to homes, roofs and vehicles, wind and flood damage. An adjuster may be delayed if the region you live in has experienced significant damage, but the insurer is required to make the policy holder aware that one is being scheduled and provide the date of the visit. Most insurance adjusters will arrive on the scene within 3-5 days after the homeowner has called to report damage.
2. Failure to Disclose Full Benefits and Entitlements
What happens to your family if your home has been damaged due to a natural disaster, and is condemned or unlivable without necessary repairs and cleaning? Your homeowner policy may provide for hotel accommodation if your dwelling is damaged or unsafe. A family can enjoy this accommodation until the insurance company has compensated for the loss and after the repairs have been made.
This service is added to many types of homeowner’s insurance; but don’t expect the insurer to point out this benefit, if you are not aware of it. They are however, legally required to do so immediately after you contact them and review the terms of your policy and any free benefits and accommodations that are available to you.
3. Invalidating a Claim for Hidden Administrative Motives
If you have been injured and needed to seek medical attention as a result of an injury you sustained in your home, or in your vehicle, you are entitled to compensation for the medical care you received. This includes the cost of physician visits, emergency care, ambulance, medications, therapeutics, surgeries, medical examinations, X-rays, CT scans and more.
Some insurance companies will look at large expense medical claims and attempt to deny payment through a variety of different tactics. That can include presenting the injury as relevant to a pre-existing condition. They can also attempt to claim that some of the procedures or medical supplies you needed were excessive or redundant and refuse to compensate for the insured’s out of pocket expenses.
While the prevention of insurance fraud is important, and your insurance company must take all reasonable steps to validate your personal injury or property loss claims, trust your intuition when it feels like your insurance company is not living up to the terms of your policy and coverage.
Remember to always:
a) Get evaluated by a medical professional after you have been involved in a vehicle, residential or commercial accident or natural disaster event, if you feel you have been injured.
b) Document everything. Use your smartphone to take pictures and videos of the damage sustained by the storm or flood. If different buildings on your property were damaged and / or vehicles, make sure to all of the damage. And remember to upload your photos and videos to Google Docs or safe cloud storage device to back them up, in the event your phone becomes damaged.
c) If your home has been damaged, make a list of the valuables including jewelry, electronics, furnishings, art and heirlooms and other property that has been either lost or damaged. You may be asked by the insurance company to provide proof of purchase and possession for high-priced items.
Choose Compton Law Firm for Bad Faith Insurance Cases in Oklahoma
Compton Law Firm is a group of experienced attorneys, who have mitigated hundreds of personal injury and insurance bad faith cases for families in Oklahoma. We stand with you and fight for what you are legally entitled to, when an insurance company disputes a legitimate property recovery or personal injury claim.
While not all insurance companies are unscrupulous, whenever there is a chain of natural disasters that impacts Oklahoma residents, there is a pattern to diminish the insurance company’s losses in the region. Dispatching adjusters to storm and flood impacted regions, the insurers are looking for any loophole or caveat they can find, to attempt to delegitimize the insurance claim. In fact, these adjusters are often paid a ‘bonus’ for settling with the policy holder for the lowest possible compensation amount. And in some cases, no compensation whatsoever.
Trust Compton Law Firm to evaluate the terms of your insurance policy, and step-in to fight for you when the insurance company is not treating you fairly. Remember, if you have an insurance policy enforced, the insurer is required by law to compensate to the terms outlined in your private contract with them. But don’t expect them to do that willingly. Get ready to fight for the settlement and compensation that you are legally entitled to.
Compton Law Firm doesn’t just ‘help’ Oklahoma residents in cases of Insurance Bad Faith, we win. Contact us today for a consultation to evaluate your insurance dispute. And remember, if your case involves legal action to compensate you for medical expenses, loss of income and more due to a personal injury claim, you pay no legal fees until we win your case.
Start today with by scheduling a consultation for legal advice, from our team at Compton Law Firm. We have offices to serve you in Oklahoma City, El Reno, and Hinton. If you are unable to come to our office, our Attorney’s can meet with you and your family at a hospital, or other location convenient to your needs.
Call our toll-free number: 1-866-440-7542 and get the compensation you deserve.