INSURANCE CODE CHAPTER 542A. CERTAIN CONSUMER ACTIONS RELATED TO CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE
	
					

INSURANCE CODE


TITLE 5. PROTECTION OF CONSUMER INTERESTS


SUBTITLE C. DECEPTIVE, UNFAIR, AND PROHIBITED PRACTICES


CHAPTER 542A. CERTAIN CONSUMER ACTIONS RELATED TO CLAIMS FOR PROPERTY DAMAGE


Sec. 542A.001. DEFINITIONS. In this chapter:

(1) "Agent" means an employee, agent, representative, or adjuster who performs any act on behalf of an insurer.

(2) "Claim" means a first-party claim that:

(A) is made by an insured under an insurance policy providing coverage for real property or improvements to real property;

(B) must be paid by the insurer directly to the insured; and

(C) arises from damage to or loss of covered property caused, wholly or partly, by forces of nature, including an earthquake or earth tremor, a wildfire, a flood, a tornado, lightning, a hurricane, hail, wind, a snowstorm, or a rainstorm.

(3) "Claimant" means a person making a claim.

(4) "Insurer" means a corporation, association, partnership, or individual, other than the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association, engaged as a principal in the business of insurance and authorized or eligible to write property insurance in this state, including:

(A) an insurance company;

(B) a reciprocal or interinsurance exchange;

(C) a mutual insurance company;

(D) a capital stock insurance company;

(E) a county mutual insurance company;

(F) a farm mutual insurance company;

(G) a Lloyd's plan;

(H) an eligible surplus lines insurer; or

(I) the FAIR Plan Association, unless a claim-related dispute resolution procedure is available to policyholders under Chapter 2211.

(5) "Person" means a corporation, association, partnership, or other legal entity or individual.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.002. APPLICABILITY OF CHAPTER. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), this chapter applies to an action on a claim against an insurer or agent, including:

(1) an action alleging a breach of contract;

(2) an action alleging negligence, misrepresentation, fraud, or breach of a common law duty; or

(3) an action brought under:

(A) Subchapter D, Chapter 541;

(B) Subchapter B, Chapter 542; or

(C) Subchapter E, Chapter 17, Business & Commerce Code.

(b) This chapter does not apply to an action against the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association or to an action relating to or arising from a policy ceded to an insurer by the Texas Windstorm Insurance Association under Subchapter O, Chapter 2210. This chapter applies to an action that relates to or arises from a policy renewed under Section 2210.703.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.003. NOTICE REQUIRED. (a) In addition to any other notice required by law or the applicable insurance policy, not later than the 61st day before the date a claimant files an action to which this chapter applies in which the claimant seeks damages from any person, the claimant must give written notice to the person in accordance with this section as a prerequisite to filing the action.

(b) The notice required under this section must provide:

(1) a statement of the acts or omissions giving rise to the claim;

(2) the specific amount alleged to be owed by the insurer on the claim for damage to or loss of covered property; and

(3) the amount of reasonable and necessary attorney's fees incurred by the claimant, calculated by multiplying the number of hours actually worked by the claimant's attorney, as of the date the notice is given and as reflected in contemporaneously kept time records, by an hourly rate that is customary for similar legal services.

(c) If an attorney or other representative gives the notice required under this section on behalf of a claimant, the attorney or representative shall:

(1) provide a copy of the notice to the claimant; and

(2) include in the notice a statement that a copy of the notice was provided to the claimant.

(d) A presuit notice under Subsection (a) is not required if giving notice is impracticable because:

(1) the claimant has a reasonable basis for believing there is insufficient time to give the presuit notice before the limitations period will expire; or

(2) the action is asserted as a counterclaim.

(e) To ensure that a claimant is not prejudiced by having given the presuit notice required by this chapter, a court shall dismiss without prejudice an action relating to the claim for which notice is given by the claimant and commenced:

(1) before the 61st day after the date the claimant provides presuit notice under Subsection (a);

(2) by a person to whom presuit notice is given under Subsection (a); and

(3) against the claimant giving the notice.

(f) A claimant who gives notice in accordance with this chapter is not relieved of the obligation to give notice under any other applicable law. Notice given under this chapter may be combined with notice given under any other law.

(g) Notice given under this chapter is admissible in evidence in a civil action or alternative dispute resolution proceeding relating to the claim for which the notice is given.

(h) The giving of a notice under this chapter does not provide a basis for limiting the evidence of attorney's fees, damage, or loss a claimant may offer at trial.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.004. INSPECTION. Not later than the 30th day after receiving a presuit notice given under Section 542A.003(a), a person to whom notice is given may send a written request to the claimant to inspect, photograph, or evaluate, in a reasonable manner and at a reasonable time, the property that is the subject of the claim. If reasonably possible, the inspection, photography, and evaluation must be completed not later than the 60th day after the date the person receives the presuit notice.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.005. ABATEMENT. (a) In addition to taking any other act allowed by contract or by any other law, a person against whom an action to which this chapter applies is pending may file a plea in abatement not later than the 30th day after the date the person files an original answer in the court in which the action is pending if the person:

(1) did not receive a presuit notice complying with Section 542A.003; or

(2) requested under Section 542A.004 but was not provided a reasonable opportunity to inspect, photograph, or evaluate the property that is the subject of the claim.

(b) The court shall abate the action if the court finds that the person filing the plea in abatement:

(1) did not, for any reason, receive a presuit notice complying with Section 542A.003; or

(2) requested under Section 542A.004 but was not provided a reasonable opportunity to inspect, photograph, or evaluate the property that is the subject of the claim.

(c) An action is automatically abated without a court order beginning on the 11th day after the date a plea in abatement is filed if the plea:

(1) is verified and alleges that the person against whom the action is pending:

(A) did not receive a presuit notice complying with Section 542A.003; or

(B) requested under Section 542A.004 but was not provided a reasonable opportunity to inspect, photograph, or evaluate the property that is the subject of the claim; and

(2) is not controverted by an affidavit filed by the claimant before the 11th day after the date the plea in abatement is filed.

(d) An affidavit described by Subsection (c)(2) controverting whether the person against whom the action is pending received a presuit notice complying with Section 542A.003 must:

(1) include as an attachment a copy of the document the claimant sent to give notice of the claimant's action; and

(2) state the date on which the notice was given.

(e) An abatement under this section continues until the later of:

(1) the 60th day after the date a notice complying with Section 542A.003 is given; or

(2) the 15th day after the date of the requested inspection, photographing, or evaluating of the property is completed.

(f) If an action is abated under this section, a court may not compel participation in an alternative dispute resolution proceeding until after the abatement period provided by Subsection (e) has expired.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.006. ACTION AGAINST AGENT; INSURER ELECTION OF LEGAL RESPONSIBILITY. (a) Except as provided by Subsection (h), in an action to which this chapter applies, an insurer that is a party to the action may elect to accept whatever liability an agent might have to the claimant for the agent's acts or omissions related to the claim by providing written notice to the claimant.

(b) If an insurer makes an election under Subsection (a) before a claimant files an action to which this chapter applies, no cause of action exists against the agent related to the claimant's claim, and, if the claimant files an action against the agent, the court shall dismiss that action with prejudice.

(c) If a claimant files an action to which this chapter applies against an agent and the insurer thereafter makes an election under Subsection (a) with respect to the agent, the court shall dismiss the action against the agent with prejudice.

(d) If an insurer makes an election under Subsection (a) but, after having been served with a notice of intent to take a deposition of the agent who is the subject of the election, fails to make that agent available at a reasonable time and place to give deposition testimony, Sections 542A.007(a), (b), and (c) do not apply to the action with respect to which the insurer made the election unless the court finds that:

(1) it is impracticable for the insurer to make the agent available due to a change in circumstances arising after the insurer made the election under Subsection (a);

(2) the agent whose liability was assumed would not have been a proper party to the action; or

(3) obtaining the agent's deposition testimony is not warranted under the law.

(e) An insurer's election under Subsection (a) is ineffective to obtain the dismissal of an action against an agent if the insurer's election is conditioned in a way that will result in the insurer avoiding liability for any claim-related damage caused to the claimant by the agent's acts or omissions.

(f) An insurer may not revoke, and a court may not nullify, an insurer's election under Subsection (a).

(g) If an insurer makes an election under Subsection (a) and the agent is not a party to the action, evidence of the agent's acts or omissions may be offered at trial and, if supported by sufficient evidence, the trier of fact may be asked to resolve fact issues as if the agent were a defendant, and a judgment against the insurer must include any liability that would have been assessed against the agent. To the extent there is a conflict between this subsection and Chapter 33, Civil Practice and Remedies Code, this subsection prevails.

(h) If an insurer is in receivership at the time the claimant commences an action against the insurer, the insurer may not make an election under Subsection (a), and the court shall disregard any prior election made by the insurer relating to the claimant's claim.

(i) In an action tried by a jury, an insurer's election under Subsection (a) may not be made known to the jury.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.

Sec. 542A.007. AWARD OF ATTORNEY'S FEES. (a) Except as otherwise provided by this section, the amount of attorney's fees that may be awarded to a claimant in an action to which this chapter applies is the lesser of:

(1) the amount of reasonable and necessary attorney's fees supported at trial by sufficient evidence and determined by the trier of fact to have been incurred by the claimant in bringing the action;

(2) the amount of attorney's fees that may be awarded to the claimant under other applicable law; or

(3) the amount calculated by:

(A) dividing the amount to be awarded in the judgment to the claimant for the claimant's claim under the insurance policy for damage to or loss of covered property by the amount alleged to be owed on the claim for that damage or loss in a notice given under this chapter; and

(B) multiplying the amount calculated under Paragraph (A) by the total amount of reasonable and necessary attorney's fees supported at trial by sufficient evidence and determined by the trier of fact to have been incurred by the claimant in bringing the action.

(b) Except as provided by Subsection (d), the court shall award to the claimant the full amount of reasonable and necessary attorney's fees supported at trial by sufficient evidence and determined by the trier of fact to have been incurred by the claimant in bringing the action if the amount calculated under Subsection (a)(3)(A) is:

(1) greater than or equal to 0.8;

(2) not limited by this section or another law; and

(3) otherwise recoverable under law.

(c) The court may not award attorney's fees to the claimant if the amount calculated under Subsection (a)(3)(A) is less than 0.2.

(d) If a defendant in an action to which this chapter applies pleads and proves that the defendant was entitled to but was not given a presuit notice stating the specific amount alleged to be owed by the insurer under Section 542A.003(b)(2) at least 61 days before the date the action was filed by the claimant, the court may not award to the claimant any attorney's fees incurred after the date the defendant files the pleading with the court. A pleading under this subsection must be filed not later than the 30th day after the date the defendant files an original answer in the court in which the action is pending.

Added by Acts 2017, 85th Leg., R.S., Ch. 151 (H.B. 1774), Sec. 3, eff. September 1, 2017.