Back in April, an attorney in our Houston, Texas, office, Javier Delgado, wrote a post for this blog warning TWIA policyholders to be careful when choosing how to challenge a TWIA determination of damage to property (Don’t Be Fooled By Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s Misleading Letter).
Javier pointed out that although the TWIA letter implies a policyholder can administratively appeal and file suit, this is not the case. If a policyholder chooses the administrative appeal, the policyholder cannot later file suit against TWIA when the administrative judge rules against them:
Texas Windstorm Insurance Association says you only have 30 days to appeal its determination of damage to your property! DO NOT RUSH TO APPEAL before you learn what TWIA is not telling you; you will give up valuable legal rights and remedies.
Many people received a letter from Texas Windstorm Insurance Association explaining how TWIA determined the value of damages to their property. The TWIA letter states:
“You are hereby notified that an appeal of the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association’s decision must be filed with the Commissioner of Insurance at the Texas Department of Insurance … no later than the 30th day after receipt of this letter.” [emphasis added]
The letter further states that a policyholder can appeal or file suit.
TWIA’s letter implies that a policyholder can appeal and file a lawsuit for violation of unfair settlement practices under Section 541.060 of the Texas Insurance Code. THIS IS NOT TRUE. Texas Statutes Section 2210.552, of the Insurance Code states that a person may appeal the decision with the Texas Department of Insurance OR file a lawsuit under Chapter 541. A policyholder cannot do both.
A person who appeals gives up his or her right to file a lawsuit against the insurance company….
An example of why a policyholder should think twice before giving up the right to file suit against TWIA can be seen in the letter below that was forwarded to me. The homeowner had suffered roof damage from Hurricane Ike and chose an administrative hearing to contest TWIA’s determination of damage. My guess is he now regrets having made that choice.