Floods, hurricanes, wildfires, and other disasters can wreak havoc on both your health and property. In 2021 alone, a total of 20 natural disasters took the lives of 688 individuals in the U.S. and caused a staggering $145 billion in losses.
When dealing with injuries resulting from natural disasters, navigating the personal injury claims process can be complex. Natural disasters often raise concerns about vehicle damage, and costly repairs can leave car owners unsure if their auto insurance covers damages caused by such events.
Here are some factors to consider when filing a personal injury claim after a natural disaster.
Are you allowed to file a claim after a natural disaster?
Dealing with property damage or injuries caused by natural disasters can be a daunting and costly task. In Texas, some of the most common types of natural disasters include:
- Hail storms
While you typically can’t file a personal injury claim for damage caused directly by a natural disaster, there are instances where human negligence may be a factor.
For example, if the roads are icy, a reasonable person would drive slower and maintain a safe distance from other vehicles. Reckless driving and speeding in icy conditions can lead to a person being held responsible for any resulting car wreck.
Drivers can be held legally responsible for collisions stemming from their failure to recognize the dangers of driving on icy roads, even if the ice was the primary cause.
Another dangerous situation to be mindful of is hydroplaning on wet roads. Hydroplaning occurs when a vehicle loses traction due to wet conditions, making it difficult to steer, brake, and control speed. Drivers who do not account for these dangerous road conditions can also be held liable for damages resulting from collisions.
These instances can be considered acts of negligence rather than acts of nature. Determining fault involves assessing whether the responsible party acted reasonably given the circumstances.
We recommend seeking legal advice if you’re uncertain about the cause of damage during a natural disaster.
How can you stay safe while driving in natural disasters?
When driving in Texas, it’s important to be cautious and prepared for the various weather conditions that can pose hazards on the roads. With tornadoes, floods, hail, sleet, snow, black ice, hurricanes, heavy rains, and fog, Texas experiences a wide range of weather patterns that can impact driving. To ensure your safety and minimize the risk of accidents, here are some essential tips:
- Reduce your speed: Drive at a moderate speed that allows for better traction and reaction time. Adjust your speed according to the road and weather conditions.
- Increase following distance: Maintain a greater distance between your vehicle and the one ahead of you. This extra space allows for sudden stops or obstacles on the road.
- Use headlights to avoid hazards: Keep your headlights on for improved visibility, especially during adverse weather conditions. However, avoid using hazard lights while driving as they can confuse other drivers.
- Minimize distractions: Focus solely on the road by putting away distractions such as phones and other devices. Distractions can significantly impair your ability to react to changing road conditions.
- Watch out for road damage and debris: Stay alert for road damage and falling debris, as natural disasters can cause significant damage to infrastructure.
- Avoid driving through water: Try to avoid driving through water, especially if it’s fast-moving or if you can’t gauge its depth. Water can hide dangerous debris or create hazardous currents, putting you at risk.
- Be cautious of fallen electrical wires: In the aftermath of a natural disaster, be mindful of fallen electrical wires. Avoid driving over or near them and report any downed power lines to the relevant authorities.
- Plan your route in advance: Before setting out on your journey, plan your route in advance. Be aware of any road closures or detours due to the natural disaster and adjust your travel plans accordingly.
Why should you consult an attorney after a natural disaster?
To avoid unexpected out-of-pocket expenses, carefully read the fine print of your insurance policy. However, if you are unsure about your coverage or are facing difficulties with your insurance company, an attorney can be an invaluable resource.
Attorneys have the expertise to assess whether your injuries or property damage resulted from someone else’s negligence. A personal injury attorney can assist you in recovering the full value of your losses, allowing you to focus on rebuilding your life after a natural disaster.