2021 Texas Winter Storm Damage
What to know if your property was damaged by the 2021 Texas Winter Storm Damage
This blog post is not offered as legal advice to readers.
Every insurance policy in Texas is different, and whether property damage is covered by the plan can depend on the terms of the policy, and the circumstances of the damage.
But if your property was damaged by the 2021 Texas winter storm, this article explains which damage may be covered by insurance, and which may not.
Please consult an Austin personal injury attorney or insurance professionals for specific information regarding your particular circumstances.
An unprecedented blizzard in Texas
The winter storm that hit Texas in February 2021 caused widespread damage and affected millions of Texans. Record-low temperatures and a steady blizzard of snow and freezing rain bore down on the Lonestar state, obstructing roads and transportation, and resulting in extended power blackouts.
More than 4 million homes in the Lonestar state lost water or power as a result of the 2021 Texas winter storm. Many were forced to evacuate, and at least 22 people have died.
At such a challenging time, it can be difficult to even think about whether your property damage will be covered by insurance.
But there are some things worth knowing about, especially if you will be needing to file an insurance claim to repair or replace your property.
What to know:
Document All Your Property Damage
You need to be ready to show you are the rightful owner of the property, what it was worth, and the extent of damage, as well as how the 2021 Texas Winter Storm caused your property damage. This includes:
- Proof of Identification
- Documents that show you were the occupant or owner of the damaged property
- Prepare your insurance documents, and take a photo of your proof of coverage. Ensure that your premiums are all paid up.
- A list of all your property that was damaged, when it was acquired and what it was worth.
- Receipts, appraisals, tax valuations and other documentation of the real value of the property.
- Photos of your damaged property (home or other belongings)
- CLOSE-UPS that show damage.
- WIDER SHOTS that show how the damage happened.
Write down what happened, including dates and times, to clarify your memory and get it on record.
You can do temporary repairs necessary to protect the property, but contact your insurance company before doing any permanent repairs.
You are generally permitted to make temporary repairs to your damaged property, to prevent further damage.
This may include shutting off your water, or covering holes in the roof and other areas to prevent additional damage by the storm.
If you do need to make temporary repairs, your policy may pay for the materials and labor needed. Be certain to document:
- Why they were necessary,
- The process you took to repair them,
- Any receipts or invoices you pay.
If you have to evacuate because of collapse or flooding, some home insurance policies will cover the costs of a hotel. But evacuation for a power outage is unlikely to be covered under most policies.
It depends on the specifics of the insurance policy, but this can include hotel and transportation fees, as well as up to $500 for spoiled food. (Take photos of the spoiled food and make a list of all the items.)
Many insurance plans will help provide you with a hotel or shelter while your property is being repaired. However, there are limitations on most coverage.
Under many homeowner policies, only weather damage to your actual house is covered.
Many policies will pay for damage caused by snow, sleet and ice buildup. This includes roof or window damage, or even the garage.
But some plans limit coverage to damage on the actual house. Under these policies, damage to a fence, deck, toolshed, etc. may not be covered.
In fact, if the 2021 Texas storm brought down a tree that damaged your property, a homeowner policy will probably cover removal of the tree from your house or obstructed driveway. But many policies will not cover removal of a tree from your yard.
If the winter storm caused a tree to damage your property, it still may not be covered by an insurance policy.
In Texas, there are basic types of homeowner insurance policies. They offer different coverage:
Peril policies provide coverage only for the specific risks (or ’perils’) named in the policy.
Damage caused by something other than the perils in the policy will not be covered. So if you have a peril policy that does not include damage by a fallen tree, your property damage may not be covered, even if it was caused by the 2021 Texas weather storm.
All-risk policies provide insurance coverage to any type of damage to your house, however it occurs. They are more expensive, and not everyone purchases this kind of policy.
Policyholders should speak with their insurance company to find out which kind of policy they have.
What if your house was damaged by a tree that was growing on a neighbor’s property? The 2021 Winter Storm will is categorized as a force majeure event, also known as an Act of Nature.
That means unless your neighbor did something wrong to cause the tree to fall (like neglecting a diseased tree after multiple warnings), your neighbor (and your neighbor’s insurance policy) probably will not have to pay. You would have to file a claim with your own insurance company.
If the 2021 Texas winter storm caused a tree or branch to fall on your vehicle, only a comprehensive auto insurance policy may cover the damages.
Most auto insurance covers driving damage done by the policyholder. Even collision coverage generally applies only to auto accidents.
However, auto insurance policies can also include comprehensive coverage. But Texas law does not require comprehensive coverage, and it costs additional fees. So not everyone purchases it.
Comprehensive coverage pays for damages to your vehicle that are unrelated to driving collisions. This includes incidents like fire, theft or damage by weather like the 2021 Texas winter storm.
If you do not know whether you have it on your vehicle, ask your insurance provider.
If your insurance will not cover all your damage, you may be eligible for federal assistance from FEMA
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) may offer federal assistance for 2021 Texas winter storm property damage that is not covered by your insurance policy.
You can file an application online at www.disasterassistance.gov, or contact the office by phone, 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. (CDT): 800-621-3362 (TTY: 800-462-7585).
Insurance determination letter
In order to apply you will need a letter from your insurance company stating their decision of what property damage they will and won’t cover. This is called an insurance determination letter. Fema will not pay for any damage covered by your insurance. So you have to show which damage your insurance will not cover.
Be sure to have documents proving your occupancy or ownership, as well as proof of ID. Take photos of the damaged home or belongings, and make a list of damaged or items lost due to disaster.
Your rights can be lost if you wait.
Statutes of limitation are laws that limit how much time you have to file a lawsuit after being injured. Texas statutes of limitation may apply to your property.
If you want to contest an insurance company denial of coverage, you must be certain to do so before the statute of limitation has elapsed.
Every insurance policy is different, but many home and commercial property insurance policies do cover damages caused by winter weather like the winter storm that hit Texas. Speak to your insurance company.
And if you receive a denial of coverage for property you think should be covered, you may want to speak to an Austin personal injury attorney.
If you need help enduring the winter storm in Texas, there are resources available.