How Can My Insurance Company Deny a Storm Damage Claim?
What Oklahoma insurers can allege, and how an attorney can help
on November 23, 2021
Oklahoma sees more than its fair share of major storms. Situated right in the heart of Tornado Alley, Oklahoma endures an average of nine tornadoes per 10,000 square miles each year—the highest rate of any state in the country. If you are a homeowner or business owner who has suffered property damage in a serious storm, you need a full settlement to pay for repairs.
Unfortunately, getting a storm damage claim paid can sometimes prove to be challenging. Insurers have the right to review and investigate a claim—but they must use fair and good faith settlement practices every step of the way.
“Unfortunately, all typical insurance policies include provisions and/or exclusions that limit coverage to some extent,” says Keith Givens, an insurance coverage attorney at Mansell, Engel & Cole in Oklahoma City. “Our role is evaluating whether benefits have been denied in accordance with such provisions/exclusions, or contrary to the terms of the potential client’s policy. If benefits were wrongfully denied, or someone’s claim was handled in violation of Oklahoma’s duty of good faith and fair dealing, we can seek appropriate relief and damages through litigation.”
Severe Storms Can Damage Homes and Businesses in Many Different Ways
A severe storm packs a powerful punch. The storms that roll through Oklahoma have the potential to damage homes and businesses in a number of different ways, including:
- Hail damage
- Lightning damage
- Wind damage
- Flooding damage
Make sure you properly document your property’s storm damage. To bring a successful storm damage claim, you should be prepared to demonstrate exactly what happened.
Oklahoma Law: Property Insurance Companies Must Pay Valid Claims
Your legal rights derive from the terms of your property insurance policy and from Oklahoma state law. Insurance companies can deny storm damage claims, but only if they have a well-founded and good faith reason to do so. Some of the most common reasons why storm damage claims are denied in Oklahoma include:
- Failure of policyholder to make payments
- Failure of policyholder to file in a timely manner
- Insufficient evidence of damage
- Damage does not meet the level of the deductible
- Disputes over policy exclusions
- Disputes over the cause or nature of the damage
Notably, insurance companies are required to treat policyholders fairly. Under Oklahoma law (Unfair Claim Settlement Practices Act), an insurance company can be held legally liable if it engages in bad faith settlement practices, such as failure to investigate a claim, offering an unreasonably low settlement, or denying a valid claim for no reason.
“Claims that have been wrongfully denied can be pursued through litigation or through informal challenges that can be handled by attorneys or the insureds themselves,” says Givens. “Complaints can also be submitted to the Oklahoma Insurance Department for review. If a complaint is submitted, the insurance department typically contacts the insurance company for its response to the issues raised by its insured. Then [they] forward a copy of the insurance company’s response to the insured who submitted the complaint. This process does not preclude the insured from pursuing the same dispute through litigation or an informal challenge with or without legal counsel representing the insured.”
An Oklahoma Bad Faith Lawyer Can Help You Hold an Insurer Liable for Unfair Practices
Bad faith laws help to ensure that property insurance companies pay out legitimate storm damage claims without unreasonable delay. Unfortunately, the property damage claims process can be difficult to navigate for homeowners and business owners. If your storm damage claim was rejected and you believe that the insurer used unfair practice, consult with an experienced Oklahoma bad faith insurance attorney as soon as possible. A lawyer can help you seek justice, accountability, and the full financial compensation that you need to make repairs to your property and cover your expenses.
“Oklahoma law and many insurance policies have strict deadlines for the filing of any lawsuit over a disputed claim,” add Givens. “If litigation is not initiated before such deadlines expire, the insured will be barred from recovering anything from his/her insurance company.”
For more information on this area of law, see our insurance coverage law overview.