Local business reopens after months of winter storm repairs, some still dealing with insurance nightmares

Williamson County

AUSTIN (KXAN) — On Saturday, a beloved local pharmacy got to open its doors again for the first time since the winter storm. Quick Pharmacy’s Round Rock location has been closed since a pipe burst, destroying the store and all its inventory in February.

“Being down and out for four-and-a-half to five months is challenging,” said Quick Pharmacy owner Amanda Bradley. “It was a devastating flood, and it wasn’t just something that we could patch up and move on.”

After a pipe burst in the ceiling, water poured throughout the store.

“We were really back down to the studs and framework of the building,” she explained. “We lost about $250,000 worth of medication and over-the-counter products. Thankfully, insurance — we have insurance for a reason.”

Not all homeowners, however, are so fortunate. While most businesses have all-risks coverage to pay out big claims, many homeowners have what are called peril policies. Those policies often have sub-limits, meaning they’re only paying $5,000 to $10,000 for storm repairs that cost much more, according to attorney Andrew Woellner.

Woellner is partner in the Property-Loss Division at Potts Law Firm. He’s currently working on about 200 open cases from the winter storm.

He said many of his clients aren’t getting reimbursement for damage because of the wording in their policies.

“If it doesn’t say the name, you’re not covered for it,” Woellner explained of all-risks policies. “One that’s always in there is ‘explosion,’ and a synonym for ‘burst’ is ‘explosion.’ So, if you have a pipe burst, you have a pipe explosion, and yet, every named peril policy I’ve seen is getting those claims denied.”

Woellner is optimistic judges will side with homeowners when those claims are taken to court.

He’s also fighting a lot of cases where clients’ sub-limits are much lower than the cost of damage incurred.

“Certainly a catastrophe event like that involves a lot of claims, and there are only so many adjusters, and so putting a lot on those adjusters things are going to get missed,” Woellner said. “That happens a lot in hurricane claims. That happens a lot with massive hail events, those kinds of things that require a lot of man hours and work that really put a burden on those adjusters. But the other thing is insurance companies just typically want to pay as little as possible.”

Woellner said all homeowners should read their policies closely and know what’s covered. He recommends anyone having issues with a February storm insurance claim use an attorney or a public adjuster.

The Texas Department of Insurance said more than 400,000 winter storm claims have been filed with the state’s largest insurers. TDI reminds policy holders that insurers are required to meet certain timelines for handling claims.

If you’re having trouble with a claim, you can file a complaint online or call the TDI Help Line at (800) 252-3439 with insurance questions.

Some plumbing companies still seeing issues from winter storm

Five months after February’s devastating winter storm, some homeowners are still finding new issues.

KXAN spoke to several plumbing companies in the Austin area. Most said they’re finally caught up on calls to repair broken pipes and other damage from the storm.

However, Radiant Plumbing and Air Conditioning said now, its team is going back on some jobs it wasn’t able to complete, because there was such a backlog for parts.

“The winter storms caused a supply issue across the board, and not just in the plumbing trade, but everywhere,” said Radiant’s Plumbing Operations Director Christopher Taylor. “And then, you mix that with the supply demand constraints that COVID brought last year, and I think everybody in the trades, in general, is having a tough time getting parts, and the material is skyrocketing in prices.”

Taylor said his team is also beginning to see some damage homeowners are just now noticing, which could be a result of the freeze.

“It’s starting to creep up in maybe 10% of the calls where there were issues unrelated to the winter storm in the in the heat of the moment, but, you know, now, after doing some thoughtful diagnostics and searching in the home, it makes sense how it all happened.”

Taylor said now, at least, his team is able to handle emergency calls same-day. He said at one point following the winter storm, the company was booked about three months out.

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