Potts Law Firm Responds to FEMA's Refusal to Extend Harvey Proof of Loss Deadline
The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) announced that it will not extend the National Flood Insurance Program Proof of Loss claim deadline to December 31, 2018, as requested by the Commissioner of the Texas Department of Insurance, Kent Sullivan. In a letter to Sullivan, David Maurstad, Deputy Associate Administrator for Insurance and Mitigation at FEMA, assured Sullivan that FEMA would take care of the remaining claims but would not extend the Proof of Loss deadline.
What does this mean for Texas flood insurance policyholders with claims for additional payment from FEMA? It means that unless the policyholder files a sworn Proof of Loss with supporting information delivered to their carrier by this weekend, they will lose their right to future payments without a waiver from FEMA. If dissatisfied with their claim, they cannot file a lawsuit. All of the authority on the claim will pass to FEMA and can only be paid with approval from FEMA.
The decision made by FEMA comes as a surprise as there is no downside to FEMA granting the extension. It is apparent through their refusal to grant the extension that they wish to prevent insureds from making further recovery for their claims. This decision also prevents the insureds from hiring a knowledgeable attorney to assist them in their claims since they will be unable to file a lawsuit to protect their rights.
“We worked hard with the Texas Department of Insurance to get an extension, not just for our clients but for all flood victims unable to meet the previous deadline, and we are very frustrated,” said Martin Mayo, Property and Flood Division Attorney of Potts Law Firm, LLP, based in Houston. “The request would have been a good start, but we are disappointed that Texas did not get the same 24-month extension as granted by FEMA in Hurricane Sandy.”
Due to the catastrophic nature of Hurricane Harvey, FEMA has been inundated with claims that remain unaddressed. U.S. Representatives John Culberson and Gene Green submitted a letter to FEMA asking for an extension, and with an additional letter from the Texas Department of Insurance signed by Commissioner of Insurance Kent Sullivan and the Texas Division of Emergency Management Chief Nim Kidd, the extension was expected to be secured. Mayo was one of the lawyers providing information for the government relations committee and working with Commissioner Sullivan.
With an extension, flood victims would have had additional time to file a supplemental Proof of Loss, which is set to expire at the end of August on the anniversary of Hurricane Harvey. Hundreds of claims remain in the appeal stage, so this extension was a critical step in providing many flood victims a chance to file a Proof of Loss. Without the extension, anyone in the appeal stage who loses their appeal will have no further remedy without the cooperation of FEMA. Past history demonstrates that FEMA and its WYO carriers are rarely cooperative once the deadline is passed.
National Managing Partner of Potts Law Firm, LLP, Derek Potts, was appointed by the United States Court of Federal Claims as Plaintiffs’ Co-Lead Counsel to lead the case against the United States Army Corp of Engineers for its release of water during Hurricane Harvey that flooded more than 9,000 homes and businesses downstream of the reservoirs. Potts’ qualifications, coupled with Mayo’s 10 years of experience representing families and businesses with flood claims relating to hurricanes, including his work as one of the primary attorneys responsible for achieving the FEMA extension granted after Hurricane Ike, position Potts Law Firm as one of the leading firms in the Hurricane Harvey casework.
“FEMA’s decision to treat Texans differently than New Jersey residents in the case of Hurricane Sandy by refusing to grant an extension is inexplicable and disgraceful,” said Potts. “We are hopeful that they will reconsider this fateful decision.”