HOUSTON - Many people suffered water damage to their cars, homes, or businesses during Thursday's water main break.
Now questions are surfacing about who is responsible for paying for the repairs.
"I didn't know what was going on. I had never seen water like that," said Chris Garner, describing the water that flooded his yard.
Neighbors along 610 East Loop are still in shock. Mirtha Ruiz showed us a video she took of water submerging her truck tires and front yard.
There's good news for her. No significant damage, she says.
But drivers stuck in the water on 610 don't appear so lucky.
Insurance agents say flooding damage to cars is covered if you bought comprehensive auto insurance.
"Comprehensive is what you have to have to be covered. The state mandates that you have liability, and does not mandate comprehensive," explains Allstate agent Sal Ortiz.
But flooding damage to a home from a water main break is treated differently.
Ortiz says some homeowner's insurance policies may cover it, but most don't. He also says that some flood insurance policies, such as FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, cover only flooding damage from weather.
"Because this was off-premise and the water was not surface water, it was underground, there may be some issues in coverage for that," said Ortiz. "But Texas does have some statutes that may give back some coverage."
While you might think municipalities might be liable for water main breaks, consumer attorney Jesse Corona with the Corona Law Firm says Texas law exempts them.
"Governments, including municipalities like Houston, are immune for liability for negligence for their actions by their employees if they're performed during the normal course duties," explained Corona.
He says a contractor can be held liable if the contractor is determined to be at fault in an accident. Determining which party is truly liable sometimes has to play out in court.
"At the end of the day, the folks that pay the price for this kind of situation are the consumers, the business owners, the homeowners," said Corona.
Mayor Turner said during a press conference today, people with damage can submit claims to the City.
If insurance does not cover some people's damage from the 610 water main break, we asked the Mayor's Office whether the city would be liable. We were referred to the contractor, which referred us to Houston Public Works, which referred us to the Houston Legal Department.
So you can see, there's no clear answer.
Ortiz recommends any consumer who has flood damage immediately report it to their insurance carrier.
"The fact is every policy is worded differently. That's why there's no one size fits all in claim situations," said Ortiz.
In the meantime, experts recommend consumers start with the following steps:
- Immediately file claims with their insurance carriers
- Take video and photos of the damage
- Don't throw away any damaged items until an adjuster has seen them
- Don't make permanent repairs, only temporary repairs to protect your family's safety