Some Texans forced out of their homes by Hurricane Harvey may soon return and start thinking about rebuilding. That means filing insurance claims so they can start with repairs.
Insurance companies are inundated with calls right now from people trying to file before Friday, when a new state law takes effect.
But the rush to file may not impact many homeowners.
House Bill 1774 puts more work on the consumer and could cost some consumers money, but it only kicks in if your insurance company doesn't pay what you think is fair and you file a lawsuit against them.
If there's no lawsuit, nothing's any different under the new law.
"They ought not be concerned not being able to claim by Friday," said attorney Steven Badger, who represents insurance companies who supported the bill.
Badger is backed up by the Texas Department of Insurance, Federal Emergency Management Agency and even the Texas Catholic Conference of Bishops. The new law does not affect the claims process.
Most Harvey insurance claims will go to the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, which covers those along the coast. The National Flood Insurance Program will handle the high water claims in Houston. The bill has no impact on those claims.
The people who file with homeowners insurance and then sue over the outcome are impacted.
If you file before Friday and win a suit with your insurance company, you get a check for 18-percent more than what the judge ordered. After Friday, when the new law kicks in, that payment drops to about 10 percent.
Wade Barrow, president of Tarrant County Trial Lawyers, points out lawsuit numbers are higher after a disaster like this. He says there will be more disagreements and more people who will benefit from filing before Friday.
"There are adverse consequences if you don't act. It's going to happen to people who can least afford them: victims of the worst storm in this state's history," Barrow said.
Bottom line, if it's safe and you're able to file a claim now, go ahead. If you choose to sue your insurance company, this could help you a bit.
If you don't file the claim now, and you don't sue your insurance company, it will have little to no impact.