West Fertilizer Plant Explosion Lawyer: Recovering Residents May Face Hurdles With Insurance Companies

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Resident near the April 17 explosion at a West, Texas, fertilizer plant are beginning the process of rebuilding. However, those resident may face issues with their insurance policies in the process of recovering, said West plant explosion lawyer Ben Bronston, who gives five pieces of advice for those affected.

The people of West need to be aware of their rights when it comes to their own insurance company when making a claim for the damage to their home or business," said Ben Bronston, West, Texas plant explosion lawyer.

Now that the initial shock of the West Fertilizer Plant explosion has begun to wear off in West, Texas, the citizens of this small town are shifting their focus to rebuilding.

According to Houston injury attorney Ben Bronston, of the law firm Ben Bronston & Associates, “The first challenge many of these people will face in the rebuilding process is dealing with their insurance company’s handling of claims for damaged property.”

Members of Ben Bronston & Associates witnessed the destruction in West first-hand over the past couple of weeks as they volunteered with the recovery effort.

“After witnessing the damage and listening to the residents, two things became apparent. First, many people lacked adequate insurance coverage for their property. And second, the willingness of insurance companies to pay claims fairly will likely become a contentious issue.”

Ben Bronston & Associates wants to help the people of West and anyone else who suffered property damage. Before agreeing to a property damage insurance settlement, claimants need to be aware of their rights. Following are a number of issues which frequently arise when policy holders submit a claim to their insurance company for property damage, regardless of whether the property was commercial or residential:

1.     The insurance company’s duty to act in good faith.

“The law imposes a duty on insurance companies to use good faith in the interpretation of their policies and in the investigation and payment of claims,” said Bronston. “Breaching this duty and unreasonably denying a claim exposes the insurer to potentially significant damages. If you have to resort to legal action to obtain the payment you are due, the insurance company must pay your legal costs if you prevail.”

2. Misrepresentations by insurance agents when selling policies.

“If the insurance agent who sells you a policy misrepresents the coverage by telling you the policy includes more coverage than it actually does, the insurance agent and the insurance company are potentially liable for the difference,” stated Bronston. “Many times agents do not truly understand the policies they are selling and do not present you with the policy at the time of sale. Often after purchasing a policy through an agent, it’s not until you receive the actual policy in the mail – or, even worse, after a tragedy like the West Fertilizer Plant explosion – before you find out the policy does not afford you the coverage the agent represented.”

3. The agent recommended a policy that covers less than the amount than the consumer really needed.

“An insurance agent may try to sell you less coverage than what you really need in order to offer the lowest premium possible to get you to buy it” said Bronston. “If you are under-insured because of actions like this by an agent, the agent and the insurance company may be responsible for paying what your coverage should have been, not just the amount covered in your policy.”

Bronston added that in order for consumers to themselves yourself from the danger of being under-insured because of a misrepresentation, they should take detailed notes regarding what they ask for and what they are being told when theypurchase the property. Consumers should keep these notes in your insurance file as proof of what they were told in the event the insurance company views their coverage differently than they do.

4.    Ambiguities in the policy.

Bronston commented that the Texas Supreme Court has ruled that if there is an ambiguity in a policy, meaning it can be reasonably interpreted in more than one way, the ambiguity is to be resolved in the manner which most favors the policy holder. Further, the court has said that an exclusion of coverage must be expressed in clear and unambiguous language, he said. In other words, if you can reasonably interpret the exclusion language in a different way than the insurance company does, the policy holder's interpretation should prevail, Bronston said.

5. The insurance company attempts to terminate your policy once you have made a claim.

“Sometimes insurance companies will try to deny a claim by telling a policy holder that he/she voided the insurance policy by making a misrepresentation on the insurance application.” Bronston continued, “While there are instances where misrepresentations by a policy holder can void an insurance policy, those situations are fairly rare so an insurance company may be violating the law by refusing to pay a claim using that excuse.”

While much of the focus of the legal community will be on the fertilizer company and who was responsible for the explosion, Bronston said that it is important to remember that the issues involved in the West tragedy go beyond just holding someone responsible.

“The people of West need to be aware of their rights when it comes to their own insurance company when making a claim for the damage to their home or business," Bronston said. "Without being armed with this knowledge, these people run the risk of becoming victims once again, this time by their own insurance company.”

Anyone affected by the April 17, 2013 explosion at the West Fertilizer Company plant who has questions about any of their legal rights may contact the lawyers at Ben Bronston & Associates locally at 254-826-6111 or toll-free at 800-617-4BEN. Those affected can also visit http://www.westtexasplantexplosionlawyer.com or email the attorneys at info@bronstonlegal.com.

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