You wouldn’t know it simply by looking at him, but lawyer John Houghtaling is one of the most influential figures in the roofing industry. He has an eye for insurance claim fraud. Ask anyone who has ever crossed paths with him, and there is no denying that when Houghtaling steps foot in a courtroom, his opposition is in for a long day.
That’s because over the years Houghtaling has won billions of dollars for homeowners who have been wrongly treated by their insurance companies. First, it was Hurricane Katrina back in 2005, and then seven years later, he and his team went north to preside over the damage left in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
But Houghtaling isn’t your typical gun-for-hire attorney whose satisfaction is based on how much money his clients get in settlements. Instead, Houghtaling attains fulfillment from exposing crooks who wield the mightiest swords, better known in the roofing industry as the insurance companies.
This year, Houghtaling is back at it, bringing his talents and his associates to Lake Charles, Louisiana to aid homeowners in their attempt to find a sense of normalcy amidst the wreckage left by Hurricane Laura.
“There have been some bad actors on the side of the insurance carriers that have been following the storms, and they have been doing things that were wrong to people,”
Houghtaling says in explaining why his presence in Lake Charles is so essential.
“I suspect that they’re here again.”
There are many reasons Houghtaling fully embraces the fight against insurance companies, namely the impact devastating hurricanes like Katrina and Sandy have had on everyday people.
“When you lose everything in a hurricane, it’s not just numbers to the people that you represent,”
“In many cases, people have lost everything that they have, everything that they’ve built in their life. They lose their children’s bedrooms, they lose their wedding pictures.”
Worst of all, many people are also left without new homes for indefinite amounts of time.
“They go from being a homeowner, realizing the American Dream, to being homeless overnight,”
None of this is hyperbole for Houghtaling.
During Hurricane Katrina, his entire office in New Orleans was obliterated.
“It literally wiped out my office,”
Houghtaling remembers, mentioning how his firm also lost hordes of evidence that they were prepared to use in upcoming trials.
For as difficult as that moment was, it was also integral for Houghtaling, a period of time that forced him to forgo other forms of litigation and pour all his energy into representing homeowners.
“Katrina changed the way insurance deals with claims,”
he says, and ever since that moment, Houghtaling’s career has shifted primarily to working on matters of insurance.
This year, following Hurricane Laura, Houghtaling and his team have been hard at work, quickly and efficiently compiling reports so that people can get their homes and businesses back up and running. Houghtaling says expediency is key, especially at this stage.
“The insurance company’s adjuster is not doing the work on time,”
he says, going on to say that’s why people are often forced to wait for a resolution on their claims.
Thankfully, Houghtaling and his team know what they’re doing, and that assertion needs no further evidence than the $93 million they’ve already adjusted in the first twelve days after Hurricane Laura.
Also, this time around Houghtaling is showing no mercy when it comes to insurance companies and their unwillingness to properly compensate their clients.
“if we catch you [insurance companies] committing insurance fraud, we’re going to move to have you prosecuted. We’re not just going to sue you.”
Houghtaling is taking this stance because with both Hurricane Sandy and Katrina, he discovered that not only were insurance companies shorting claims, but engineering firms were also doctoring damage reports.
“We caught them faking causation reports,”
notes Houghtaling, adding that
“when there’s money involved, sometimes people cheat and take shortcuts.”
As expected, when Houghtaling was made aware of this misconduct, he sued those implicated, and soon there was a major scandal unfolding in the circuit courts of New York.
While Houghtaling appreciated that the culprits were being held accountable for their actions, he also realized that this level of exposure alone wasn’t going to eradicate the issue.
“It was a turning point for me because every time they [companies] do this, I sue them. I am successful at suing them, but in general only 1% of people sue.”
For real change to happen, Houghtaling was going to need to go after these companies on the basis of criminality, charges that would do more than just put a dent in the bank accounts of billion-dollar entities.
And this brings us back to present day in Lake Charles. From one of his three mobile RV units, Houghtaling explains that he’s now armed to take down major insurance and engineering companies if they follow the same patterns of behavior exhibited during these last fifteen years.
Houghtaling no longer will be met with expired statute of limitations and other legalese that will preclude him from taking action. Rather, with the support of powerful governmental organizations like the FBI, it’s only a matter of time before popular insurance companies feel the sting of John Houghtaling.
Or perhaps insurance companies now know they’re being watched.
Either way, Houghtaling and his team will be prepared.
“We’re going to be watching, and if they fake engineering reports, I’m not going to just sue them,”
“We’re going to the authorities.”