Hurricane Harvey made landfall on the Texas coast as a Category 4 storm on August 25th with winds of 130 miles per hour and went on to devastate Houston, Beaumont, and parts of Southwestern Louisiana with floodwaters and other damage as the days wore on. Now that the affected areas have switched to recovery mode, we reached out to workers’ compensation insurers based in Louisiana that also write in Texas to ask how they are handling the crisis and if they expect any increase in business due to re-building efforts, as occurred in Louisiana after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005.
Mike Dileo, CEO of Baton Rouge-based Stonetrust Commercial Insurance Company said they expect a marginal increase in business but haven’t seen much disturbance yet. “Yes,” he said. “We expect to see some increase in our book in south Texas but probably not a large increase. We currently write very little business there and only have a small number of agents appointed in east Texas. We’ve already started receiving some applications and have resources available to handle any business that is generated by the clean-up and rebuilding efforts.”
Kelli Troutman, speaking on behalf of fellow Baton Rouge-based carrier LUBA Workers’ Comp, also expected at least a tepid increase in activity around Texas. “We may have contractors who plan to participate in rebuilding efforts adding Texas coverage to their existing policies, but we do not expect to have an influx of new businesses as a result of Hurricane Harvey. On a personal note, we are organizing assistance for our clients who have been affected. We have been through this in our home state of Louisiana, and most recently with the [August 2016] flooding in Baton Rouge, and know firsthand how important help is during those first weeks and months of recovery. Our hearts and prayers are definitely with our neighbors right now.”
In addition to submissions, clean-up and rebuilding can have an effect on claims as work unfolds. As Jordan Barab, Washington D.C.-based former deputy assistant secretary at the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration told Business Insurance, “You have all kinds of different hazards that recovery and response workers face. You have people working on the roof of houses, you have people working in the contaminated water, you’ve got confined spaces, you have people trying to deal with electrical outages, you have people trying to deal with fallen trees, heavy machinery. There is an uncountable number of hazard that can affect workers.”
Further, injured workers may understandably attempt to aid personal re-building efforts, running the risk of exacerbating existing injuries, an issue insurers must keep in mind, along with their continued obligation to contact claimants and issue indemnity checks after a disaster.
Texas Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, Ryan Brannan, issued a bulletin last week with guidance on workers’ compensation matters in response to Hurricane Harvey and flooding in Texas. The Division of Workers’ Compensation has also launched a hurricane resource webpage with helpful information for injured employees, carriers, and health care providers affected by the storm.
Donate to recovery efforts in Texas and Louisiana via the American Red Cross here.
Image Credit: ABC