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New law could leave flood victims hurting even more AP Photo/Charlie Riedel
People push a stalled pickup through a flooded street in Houston, after Tropical Storm Harvey dumped heavy rains, Sunday, Aug. 27, 2017. The remnants of Harvey sent devastating floods pouring into Houston on Sunday as rising water chased thousands of people to rooftops or higher ground. (AP Photo/Charlie Riedel)

On Friday, House Bill 1774, a bill related to insurers meant to protect their customers, will take effect.

This could mean trouble for Houston’s flood victims.

Floodwaters from Tropical Storm Harvey flow in the Buffalo Bayou in downtown Houston, Texas, Monday, Aug. 28, 2017. (AP Photo/LM Otero)

According to click2houston.com, HB 1774 reduces penalties against insurance companies for too-low payouts, decreasing the likelihood of insurers paying plaintiff’s attorney fees and protecting individual insurance agents from being personally sued.

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Facebook posts warning people about HB 1774, as well as people refuting the fake news, went viral in light of Houston’s catastrophic flooding, in which many, many homes have been damaged by high water.

While this law might affect reimbursement for other kinds of damage to people’s homes sustained during Harvey, most claims for flood damage will be filed through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). The NFIP is federally funded though FEMA, and therefore not subject to HB 1774, which is state law.

“We will be telling folks to file damage claims as soon as they discover damage to their property,” Ware Wendell, executive director of citizen advocacy group Texas Watch, said in an interview. “By filing a valid claim before 9/1, the 18 percent penalty interest for slow payment may be preserved.”

The 18 percent penalty means, if your insurance company is too slow to pay you, and you are forced to bring legal action against them, the company would then be required to pay your claim plus an additional 18 percent of its total cost.

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Under HB 1774, however, they would only be obligated to pay 10 percent.

Ahead of the change, Wendell advises people to file a claim if they need to, even if they do not have pictures to supplement it, suggesting filing written evidence of a claim before September 1 should be enough to retain the 18 percent penalty.

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Photos of the damage can be added later.

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