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Hurricane Harvey Provides Reminder of Climate Change Concerns, Rights of Homeowners Filing Insurance Claims

Hurricane Harvey Provides Reminder of Climate Change Concerns, Rights of Homeowners Filing Insurance Claims

Car Submerged Houston and the Gulf Coast of Texas have experienced one of the worst storms in recent history with Hurricane Harvey. Due to devastating rains, flooding, and property damage that have inundated one of the nation’s largest cities, depleted its resources, and caused numerous injuries and deaths, federal authorities are estimating that half a million people will be seeking disaster assistance. This storm, as the many news stories make clear, is certainly a disaster.

As we wish the residents of Texas the best in their continued fight against the elements and their journeys to repair what’s been lost, we feel it is important to reflect on natural disasters, their impact on communities, and the lives of those affected. As experts have stated, the flood produced by Hurricane Harvey is truly a rare occurrence – what some have called an 800-year event that exceeds expectations and design specifications of infrastructure and levees.

While the focus remains on assisting those in need and mobilizing recovery efforts, many experts can’t shake a return to the debate on climate change. While climate change may not have directly caused Hurricane Harvey, it is likely that warming temperatures and the consequences of man-made pollution trapping heat in the atmosphere worsened storm conditions. Climate scientists point out a few reasons why:

  • Warmer oceans increase atmospheric moisture, which can lead to massive levels of rainfall
  • Rising sea levels contribute to more forceful storm surges and floods of a magnitude seen in Houston
  • A warmer climate creates more intense storms before they hit land
  • Weak prevailing winds fail to steer storms out to sea, which contribute to a storm’s unusual movement. Hurricane Harvey, unlike most hurricanes, stalled near the coast and hammered Houston with continuous downpours

Climate scientists are using Hurricane Harvey as an example that “once-in-a-century” storms will likely become more frequent, and “normal” storms more intense, as the planet warms. That prediction, widely agreed upon in the scientific community, takes on an ominous slant when one considers President Trump’s vocal climate change skepticism and the new presidential administration’s decision to withdraw the U.S. from the Paris climate agreement, in which countries across the world work together to adopt clean energy, reduce emissions, and contribute to the mitigation of global warming.

Trump’s stance on climate change isn’t just skepticism either, as recent actions by his administration have solidified policy changes and efforts that directly compromise the multi-nation goal of reducing global emissions. Just days before Hurricane Harvey made landfall, for example, the President announced he would be rescinding an Obama-era executive order that would require federally funded buildings to consider climate change during construction and build above extreme flood levels. By rescinding the order, Trump would in effect create a government subsidy to build in flood-prone areas, as there exists a federal program to provide flood insurance to many of these funded buildings (a program which is nearly bankrupt due to recent massive claims).

Understanding Your Rights After a Natural Disaster

Whether Trump’s aversion to the complex economic and political challenges of climate change are driven by his preference for corporations and unfettered profits or by a true disbelief is less certain than the fact that natural disasters and weather catastrophes will continue to happen. In Southern California, we may not see Hurricanes the magnitude of Harvey, but more heat energy in the atmosphere will likely produce more heat waves, more droughts and fires, more large rainstorms akin to El Niño , and more floods.

For property owners across the Southland, these are real concerns today and in the future. That’s why it becomes important for anyone who owns a business or residential property to review their insurance policies and take note of their coverage. What’s more, it is important to understand that insurance companies are required by law to treat policyholders fairly when they file claims following natural disasters and weather-related damage. Unreasonable delays, denials, and underpaid claims are grounds for insurance bad faith claims and damages.

Should you or your loved ones find yourselves being treated unfairly by your insurance company, you have a have to legal representation when voicing your grievances. When the time comes, you should consult with experienced attorneys who understand insurance company obligations, insurance bad faith claims, and how to compel insurers into paying bad faith damages when they fail to treat policyholders as they should.

As a law firm that works with clients who have often just experienced some of the most difficult and frightening experiences in their lives, Biren Law Group takes pride in providing the immediate and experienced support clients need when they have been injured or wronged. If you have questions about a legitimate insurance claim that was delayed, denied, or underpaid, our Los Angeles insurance bad faith attorneys are readily available to help you pursue a fair settlement. To learn more about our services, contact us for a free consultation.

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