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Insurance, Liability, and Legal Documents Questions Answered in Regard to Harvey Flooding

September 7, 2017

 

Question: Hurricane Harvey caused damage to my home. Is the damage insured under my homeowner's policy?

 

Answer: This depends on your homeowner's insurance policy. Most homeowner's insurance policies cover storm damages to a home caused by wind or hail, with some exclusions.

 

If you previously purchased a separate flood insurance policy, you are covered.

 

Homeowner's policies also typically cover flooding from bad plumbing, heating or air conditioning systems or from household appliances. But the exclusions section of your homeowner's policy usually excludes losses caused by surface water, overflowing streams or bayous, waves, and tidal water.

 

To determine the extent of your coverage, call your insurance agent or look at your insurance policies.

 

Question: Hurricane Harvey flooding caused a tree from my neighbor's yard to fall onto the roof of my home, creating a hole in my roof. Who is liable for the damage?

 

Answer: If the tree was diseased, decayed, dead, or in an otherwise dangerous condition prior to the hurricane, then your neighbor could be held liable for the damages.

 

A tree that poses an unreasonable risk of harm to your property should have been removed before the storm. In such a case, your neighbor's insurance carrier should pay for the damages.

 

However, if the tree was healthy, and it fell over due to the rain and flooding, then your neighbor is not liable. In that case, your homeowner's insurance policy will likely cover the damages.

 

Despite the situation, call your insurance agent to report the damages.

 

Question: My will and other estate-planning documents were destroyed by flooding from the hurricane. Are these documents still valid, or do I need to sign new ones?

 

Answer: A copy of a will can be probated, if necessary. However, without an original document, probate may be more difficult. For instance, extra witnesses may be needed to testify in court, or a beneficiary who is not happy with the terms of your will may have an easier time contesting it.

 

Copies of powers of attorney and a living will can probably be used, but it's always best to have originals.

 

If the estate planning forms were created recently, you should call your lawyer and ask to sign all of them again. Most lawyers retain forms they have prepared indefinitely on their computers.

 

Note, though, if it has been several years since you signed the forms, your attorney may insist that the forms be redrafted from scratch. Laws are constantly changing, and thus the wording of the forms has likely changed as well.

 

In particular, the Texas durable-power-of-attorney form recently underwent a major overhaul. You should not sign an old form, but instead you should sign the new version.

 

*Information curated from www.chron.com

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