The impact of Hurricane Harvey has been felt throughout our communities. I'm encouraged by the relief efforts being offered by many Texans and our surrounding neighbors. As many of us begin the recovery process, it is important to understand our rights as property owners. There is much misinformation circulating about insurance claims and new legislation relating to catastrophic events like Hurricane Harvey.

A new insurance law, House Bill 1774, addresses concerns regarding the handling of legal actions for certain insurance claims, including those arising from damage to or loss of property due to forces of nature. Although it takes effect on September 1st, it will not hinder your ability to file a claim or a lawsuit. The primary purpose of the bill is to require written notice of a dispute before a lawsuit is filed. The new law applies only to a lawsuit that is filed against an insurance company by a policyholder when their insurance claim is not timely paid, is unpaid, or when the insurance company acts in bad faith in dealing with the policyholder's claim.

Nothing in the new law passed by the Legislature earlier this year requires that the initial insurance claim be made in writing or by a specific date. The vast majority of Texans will participate in the regular insurance claims process without the necessity of filing a lawsuit. Texans will continue to have the strongest consumer insurance protections in the nation.