Three Significant Ways New Insurance Laws Affect Texas Policyholders

On May 26, 2017, Governor Greg Abbot signed House Bill 1774. The new amendments weaken consumer protection provisions in the Texas Insurance Code. The amendments go into effect on September 1, 2017. All lawsuits filed prior to September 1, 2017 will be govern under the law as it exists prior to the amendments.

Loose lips sink ships and destroy settlement agreements

One of the increasingly common provisions of a settlement agreement is a confidentiality provision. A typical confidentiality provision requires the parties to refrain from the disclosing the fact of settlement and the amount of settlement. In my opinion, you should resist including a confidentiality provision in settlement agreements. Confidentiality provisions lead only to further litigation to enforce them and could possibly cause the loss of the settlement amount.

Thierry Roge/Reuters

Thierry Roge/Reuters

The link leads to news report about a Florida lawsuit about a breach of a confidentiality agreement. In the account, a school principal (Snay) sued the school district (Gulliver) for age discrimination. The parties reach a settlement agreement at mediation that included a confidentiality provision. Snay's daughter published a Facebook message about the settlement. She posted, "Mama and Papa Snay won the case against Gulliver. Gulliver is now officially paying for my vacation to Europe this summer. SUCK IT." The Facebook post was seen by up to 1,200 of her friends, many of whom were current or former students at Gulliver. Word of the post got back to Gulliver officials, who then refused to pay the settlement amount to Snay.

Next, there was a hearing, a trial court ruling and an appeal. Ultimately, the Florida court of appeals held that Snay violated the agreement by doing exactly what he had promised not to do. His daughter then did precisely what the confidentiality agreement was designed to prevent, advertising to the Gulliver community that Snay had been successful in his age discrimination and retaliation case against the school. Snay's breach of the confidentiality provision cost him the entire settlement amount he had sued to recover in his age discrimination suit.

 

How long does it take to settle an insurance claim lawsuit?

No one can accurately predict how long it will take to settle an insurance claim lawsuit. There are many factors that play a role in determining the length of time it takes to settle a property damage insurance claim lawsuit. Some of those factors include: (1) the credibility of the witnesses and claimant; (2) the presence or absence of alternative explanations for the cause of the loss; (3) the attitude of the claims adjuster; and (4) the stage of the litigation.

Perceptions of credibility play a factor in the length of time it takes to settle a case. If the carrier views you, your experts or your lawyer as less than honest, it will take a long time to settle your case. It is important that you and your representatives provide the carrier with a consistent version of events that is logical and makes sense to avoid any delays caused by the carrier's perception of your lack of credibility.

If there are alternative causes of loss - one of which is covered and one that is not - it will take longer to settle your case. For instance, many Hurricane Ike claims have alternative causes of loss, windstorm and flood surge. Finding an appropriate balance between the causes of loss takes time.

The attitude of the claims adjuster plays a role in the loss. If the claims adjuster does not like you, your claim, your representatives, he can delay resolution of the loss. It is very important to recognize that the claims adjuster can be a friend or enemy. If an enemy, it is important to take steps to remove him from settlement authority your claim.

In almost all circumstance, it is important to get the litigation process started as soon as your lawyer's investigation is complete. The litigation process takes time. It could take up to 24 months to resolve an insurance claim lawsuit. But, in almost all circumstances, the closer you are to a trial setting, the more willing a carrier becomes to explore settlement options.

Accordingly to resolve an insurance litigation claim, it is important to select the right representatives to represent you; to thoroughly investigate the cause of the loss; and to start the litigation process as soon as the investigation is complete.