The Real Estate Law Podcast

47 - Catastrophe Planning and Compassionate Counsel with Disaster Attorney Galen Hair

April 23, 2022 Jason Muth + Rory Gill Season 1 Episode 47
The Real Estate Law Podcast
47 - Catastrophe Planning and Compassionate Counsel with Disaster Attorney Galen Hair
Show Notes Transcript

In this episode, we took a deep dive into disaster planning, how to shop for insurance, how to stand up to the insurance company, and what to do when that major storm strikes and damages your property.

Galen Hair is a property-casualty insurance attorney operating and owner of Insurance Claim HQ. He is licensed in a number of states that Mother Nature haunts with hurricanes, blizzards, tornadoes, and other natural disasters, including Louisiana, Massachusetts, Florida, and New York.

Climate change and the recurrence of "hundred year storms" (that are happening much more frequently than every hundred years) are keeping Galen busy with his seemingly recession-proof law practice.

Galen and Rory both graduated from Boston University the same year (but didn't know until we recorded since BU is so large!) Late in the episode, we heard how, at age 15, Galen learned how to engage people by giving away free samples of Texas BBQ dry-rubbed chicken, both skills he uses to this day (engaging people and cooking chicken)!

In this episode, we talk about:
-- What does a property-casualty insurance attorney do?
-- Why Galen has been to more housewarming parties than any other lawyer in the world
-- What went into relocating his operations after a hurricane hit his office in order to serve the community in which he operated
-- What should people be doing early on, far before the next disaster hits?
-- How you can become a more informed insurance shopper
-- What happened in Texas during the widespread power grid failure
-- The difference between isolated events and mass events
-- Why are insurance companies still writing policies in regions prone to mass events?
-- How to prepare for a known weather event that can cause mass destruction
-- Why documenting everything - before and after a disaster - is critical
-- What is the property owner's duty to mitigate damages after a disaster?

Fun fact - Galen is a huge fan of.....office supplies! He once debated the merits of paper clips versus rubber bands for an improv class.

Get in touch with Galen:
Website - https://insuranceclaimhq.com/
Instagram - https://www.instagram.com/insuranceclaimhq
Facebook - https://www.facebook.com/insuranceclaimhq

Join Jason Muth and Attorney / Broker Rory Gill of NextHome Titletown and UrbanVillage Legal in Boston, Massachusetts for another episode of The Real Estate Law Podcast!

#realestatepodcast #nexthome #humansoverhouses #realestate #realestateinvesting #realestateinvestor #realestatelaw #casualtylaw #disasters #hurricanes #earthquakes #frozenpipes #insurancelclaims #insuranceattorney #hundredyearstorm #propertyinsurance #disasterplanning #buyinginsurance
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Galen Hair:

The first thing you really need to do is purchase insurance with intention. Actually sit down, look at the sample policy, find out what endorsements and exclusions are going to be in your policy. The state only does so much for you. Insurance is governed state by state, it's not federal. So for instance, in Louisiana, if you if you're going to buy wind exclusion, you have to sign a form.

Announcer:

You found The Real Estate Law Podcast, because real estate is more than just pretty pictures. And law goes well beyond the paperwork and courtroom argument. If you're a real estate professional, or looking to build real estate expertise, then welcome to the conversation and discover more at realestatelawpodcast.com

Jason Muth:

Welcome to another episode of The Real Estate Law Podcast, really grateful that you're listening to us, again, because we have a really good episode, a topic that we have not covered yet, on The Real Estate Law Podcast. And it's one of those episodes where we are surrounded by attorneys. It's not always the case, but we have two of them on on the podcast today. So we're going to lean into the word law a little bit more. And I'm probably going to try to shut up as as we have this discussion, because I don't want to say anything that the attorneys are going to just totally refute what I'm saying, which is probably going to happen. But we have award winning attorneys, we have two of them right here who we just learned went to college together. You guys didn't know that because Boston University is a large school. But you actually both graduated the same year from BU, which is pretty remarkable.

Rory Gill:

So it's a class reunion here today. So I'm excited about that. And don't let the law aspect of this get, you know, intimidate you too much. We're actually have a really productive conversation ahead of us. You might want to grab a pen and paper, especially if you own property, because we're going to be taking a deep dive into disaster planning and meaning how to shop for get insurance, how to stand up to the insurance company, and what to do when that storm strikes. So I'm really happy that Galen Harris here to join us. He is an attorney partner with Insurance Claim HQ. And they cover several states and have a presence here in Boston as well. So thank you, Galen. Welcome!

Galen Hair:

Thanks for having me, Rory. And thanks, Jason. It's gonna be really exciting to kind of go through some of this with you guys.

Jason Muth:

Yeah, there's so many things we could talk about. I mean, there's so many practice areas and, you know, reasons that people might need help from an attorney. If there's a disaster. It could be weather related or not weather related. I mean, like you're, you're based, well, you have operations in Louisiana. So my goodness, talk about places where hurricanes hit and flooding. And, you know, we'll have to get into all that. One of the best states in the country, we love New Orleans, it's such a fun place. And we're in the Northeast, and you're practicing here in Massachusetts, and I saw that, you know, frozen pipes is on your list is one of many things are and that's something that we have a lot of personal experience with, unfortunately. But we should first say that you know, Galen, you are a super lawyer, rising star and top lawyer, according to New Orleans magazine, from what I'm reading on your website. Is that true? Or you fabricated all that?

Galen Hair:

I hope I didn't fabricate it. Yeah. It's I've never really understood how those awards work. So we've kind of just figured we'd work hard. And eventually someone might notice. But we were really happy to get those awards. And every day, it seems like we get another one. So it's pretty neat.

Jason Muth:

Yeah, that's awesome. The same thing happened to Rory last year, where Boston Magazine named him one of their Top Attorneys of 2021. And we don't know how that happened, either. So, you know, Rory, do you have any idea?

Rory Gill:

I don't know. But I, you know, I've told this story before. So I'll be fast, but it Jason actually was reading the magazine. So oh, look at the top lawyers and I started talking about how, how those lists don't matter so much. And you know, I don't even know how people get on there. And then he asked me if I recognize any of these names, and I looked at it and there I was, so I was surprised to find myself in the magazine. But I'll take the I'll take the honors as they come.

Jason Muth:

So Galen is a - are you a founder or partner? Is that right of Insurance Claim HQ, which is the name of your law firm, and your website is insurance, insurance, insuranceclaimhq.com. You have a lot of attorneys that are working for you, or a lot of people that are on your website. So I could tell you guys are really busy with issues that people face when they're going up against insurance companies for coverages they think they have or don't know if they have and then suddenly, they really need the help from an attorney. So you know, tell us a bit about the business how you got into it. You know, that's a great starting point.

Galen Hair:

So, originally I was doing defense work for one of the larger insurance companies in the world. And I kind of had that moment where I just couldn't do it anymore. Any lawyer listening is going to completely sympathize because you either switch from the plaintiff side to the defense side or the defense side of the plaintiff side at some point during your life. But it just for me, it wasn't something that I was comfortable with. I wasn't comfortable trying to get people's claims denied. So I made the switch. When you start a new firm, you take whatever you can get, because there is nothing for you because no one knows who you are. And I was taking these like terrible cases, I had one where like, someone tried to stab someone at a daycare, it was like crazy. And all this and so I kind of had left property casualty. And because there wasn't the work. And one day, this guy is sitting in my office about a discrimination case. And he starts crying and says, I'm so sorry, I need to get this meeting, my house burned down last night. And I was like, Oh, I know how to do this. I used to defend this work. Let me help you. And that must have been seven years ago, eight years ago. And ever since then, it's been basically all property casualty all the time.

Jason Muth:

Well, that sounds familiar Rory, huh. Those Those early cases?

Rory Gill:

Those the early cases, and I mean, what struck me was in 2011, when I first graduated was a different economy that we have now. First got my law degree. And I remember going to this job interview, because I was interested in real property law. And they were a firm that just they were a foreclosure mill did just foreclosure after foreclosure after foreclosure. And, you know, I showed up for the interview, and the reception area has bulletproof glass all over it, we welcomed in they, for some reason, in the interview, felt that important to me that there are no advancement opportunities is that it's a family run business, and they have the top positions. I don't know why they would volunteer that the first and but that's one of the things that pushed me into my own practice, just looking at the opportunities out there. And knowing that, well, everybody needs a job, I wouldn't be able to handle doing that day in day out.

Jason Muth:

Sounds like some disasters happening outside the windows that Rory?

Galen Hair:

So so that is such a familiar Boston sound to me, I kind of missed it, just just hearing Rory go through that. Yeah, you gotta love when you go to a job in any field, and the first thing they tell you is that you're never going to move up or ever be happy for that matter. And then they, for some reason, get really upset when you don't take the job.

Jason Muth:

You're back on mute Rory.

Rory Gill:

You even though you know, for the record, I don't think I got that job. Because I just, I even when I needed a job so badly at that point, I couldn't continue on with the interview with any sort of, you know, earnest interest, I just, it wasn't there. But, you know, but the practice that you've built, I must say that the job that you do, working with, with clients against insurance companies is probably one of the hardest jobs, I think in the legal field. Because all your cases are so fact intensive, every case is different. And it really matters to the nitty gritty details that go through. You're dealing with clients, often in really difficult situations, difficult and emotional situations, where it's probably hard to navigate the process. And there's a big power differential between your clients and the insurance companies. And I don't necessarily just mean the size of one person against a monstrous corporation. But, the court procedure in everything favors the the insurance companies, every court delay, that happens, every additional round of discovery helps the insurance company because they can wait to resolve the issue as long as they want to. But your client needs resolution now. So you really do have I think one of the hardest jobs in the legal field. So just wanting to kind of kick off with that. I don't know if you know, what about doing that hard work kind of is rewarding for you?

Galen Hair:

I mean, so it pays off it. It's hard. And I really appreciate what you just said, that means so much to hear another lawyer say, because most of the lawyers I talk to every day are defense lawyers, and they do not think I have a hard job. And they do not particularly like what I do. But there's something really, really neat. I of all lawyers in the country. I think the one award that I probably have one that no one knows about is I've been to more housewarming parties than any other lawyer in the world. I'm confident of this. Because we get our clients back in homes and they always invite us out. And I make a point whenever I'm invited have going even if it's for five minutes because I've got to run to something else. So that going into someone's newly built home after they have lived through an absolute nightmare. I mean, I've had clients that were sleeping in their cars when they hired us right? And there's something so cool about watching them surrounded by their friends and family smiling again when they've been through so many tears. So that's I get my reward every single time someone tells me they're back in their house.

Jason Muth:

It really humanizes what you do. It just does. I mean, like, it's the people behind the cases, and then their families and loved ones, and putting them back into a comfortable and safe environment that you've helped do. So you know, that's where I could see the work as being very rewarding.

Galen Hair:

It's pretty neat. It's, it's a great thing to do. I like laugh, I say, like, I have a corporate account of Bed Bath and Beyond, right. But but as a result, like I have, anytime you want to talk to me about like pots and pans or whatever, I've got very strong feelings, because I've had to buy so many at this point.

Jason Muth:

For housewarming gifts?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, you know, I was taught never to show up to a party empty handed. So for housewarming, we always bring something and some marketing person was like, here's what we're gonna do, we're gonna get these spoons, and we're going to etch your name on them. And I was like, we are not, we are going to give people something that they will actually use.

Jason Muth:

Boy that it's the mixture of the Southern charm. And then you came to college up here in the Northeast, where everyone is like, you know, tell it like it is like in your face little bitter and jaded. And then you're back in the south with that southern hospitality. Tell us, you know, when, when we heard from you, you know, we say, you know, so what are you working on these days, and your exact words were tons and tons of insurance claims the weather has been bananas. I don't know whether it's ever not going to be bananas going forward. I mean, you know, Believe what you want about global warming. But you know, we just went through a massive windstorm last night. We had a huge ice storm a couple weeks ago, you know, and two feet of snow a couple of weeks ago. And there's a storm going across the country right now. Hurricanes left and right. I mean, like more hurricanes. And they even have letters for they're using Greek letters now. What tell us what's going on with your business? Like, what are you seeing with the weather? And what is it leading to?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, so it's really funny, because I am based on the south and B, I work with a lot of contractors who tend to be really conservative. So the dirtiest word I can use is climate change. I was just on a stage in front of a couple of thousand people in Dallas. And I said, you know, it's the weirdest thing. It's almost like the weather, may be shifting? And I don't think they got what I was saying, but But look, it's here. I don't care about the politics behind it. You can't look at the weather and say that something's not changing. And it is, and I don't, it's not about whose fault it is or why it's happening at this stage. Unfortunately, that train has left the station, and we're dealing with it now. So everyone's got to think about this even more than they used to when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005. That was a once in a lifetime storm. Right? And Hurricane Ida just hit New Orleans again, in 2021. And that was a once in a lifetime storm. Hurricane Laura hit Southwest Louisiana in 2021. And that was a once in a lifetime storm, you are going to have multiple once in a lifetime storms during your life in your area, whatever your storm is, and you're going to start to have storms, you're not used to having a direct show hit the Midwest, everyone forgets about this, a direct show hit the Midwest and 2020 a direct show is like a dry hurricane, that has not happened in forever. There is an area of Iowa that is leveled and the news move past it because I gave you the wrong year a minute ago, Hurricane Laura hit like in 2020, just a few weeks later, so everyone moved past like the mass destruction in the Midwest. So wherever you are, unfortunately, you're gonna have to deal with this a lot more than you used to. It's it's a busy time for us, obviously. And I don't really see it going away. And that was never really the plan. Right? When we got into this. It used to be for the one off disaster and the rare people that would be injured. And now there's just thousands and thousands of people in any area of the country that need our help.

Rory Gill:

Do you see people making decisions about where to live? And where to do business based on the shifting weather patterns? And or should they be basing their decisions on that?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, it depends on the company. Right? I think they should be? I don't think they are yet. I think we're gonna see some people are obviously but I think businesses will start to make more and more decisions along that that way. And look, there's a reason for that. And it kind of comes to the morality and the ethics of a company. When Hurricane Ida hit New Orleans, I had two things I had to think about most of our administrative staff and most of our attorneys are based out of just outside New Orleans, Louisiana, right even though we have offices around. And the thought process was how in the world am I going to keep functioning as a business while protecting my employees because anyone listening to this knows that the job market is also bananas. If I get a good person, I cannot afford to lose them. So I had to do attain 100% retention rate, and stay at 95 to 100% working capacity during a once in a lifetime hurricane that destroyed our office. So the plan was to remove every single staff member and attorney to Birmingham, Alabama, where we put them up in apartments for free. We paid for their meals, and we got them an office space. And I wasn't I was maybe the only law firm that did that from New Orleans. But I was not the only business that did that. And I think you're gonna see more and more shifts in the way businesses think. Because, look, that was an expensive endeavor. And we as a firm cannot afford to do that every year. Right? So at some point, if you start to see a trend, like, Hey, we're spending a few hundred thousand Every one month every year just relocating our people, maybe we need to talk about basing our people somewhere a little bit safer.

Rory Gill:

Our network of real estate brokerages NextHome just implemented a strategy, in part to help those offices that are in the way. I mean, in the few years that I've been affiliated with NextHome, we've seen offices destroyed by fire in Northern California, get hit by hurricanes on the Gulf Coast, and have to come up with these contingency plans. So now, we all kind of chip in money for the eventuality that an office is going to need to get back on its feet, using help from its you know, from its affiliates across the country. But that just seems like a bit of a band aid here when you're talking about getting a whole business resituated. And in your case, two states away, if you brought everybody up to Alabama.

Galen Hair:

Well, and what you're talking about is amazing, right? Because that's becoming the standard conversation - is how do we help our affiliates, even if it's not a direct financial interest? And 10 years ago, that wasn't even a thought people would have laughed if you if someone had said, How about we all chip in a little bit of money in case one of these offices has a problem. And again, that's that's what you're starting to see. And it's a great thing, because as much as people like to hate on millennials, and whatever this new generation is that's in the workplace, one of the things they do want is to be taken care of and valued. And even what you're talking about even that band aid shows that because other people from around the country are chipping in money to help them get back on their feet and keep their jobs.

Rory Gill:

So you know, one of the things I kind of want to walk through and give people some practical takeaways here. So aside from just the choice of where to locate your home or your business, what are some things that people should be doing early on in the process? There's no hurricanes on its way. And they want to either shop for insurance or just start making smart decisions to prepare themselves for disaster. What would you say to those clients? You know, early on before anything, anything happens to them?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, so step one, and it's a little blunt. It's just be better in terms of buying insurance. Americans are the worst consumers when it comes to purchasing insurance for their property. What do I mean by that? Rory, when's the last time you bought a car here in Boston? So you might be lucky and not have one?

Rory Gill:

The last time I bought a car was in 2014.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, see these Boston people?

Jason Muth:

We drive them till they die. I mean, I bought a car in 2016. And I still have it.

Galen Hair:

So both of you, both of you bought cars, and you knew you wanted them to last forever, and they're important to you. Right? And what did that process look like? Probably a test drive. Did you do any background research?

Rory Gill:

I did some preliminary research. It was a used car. But I tried. I did some.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, you did some? How much? Do you think the average research? How much do you think the average consumer does in terms of background research for purchasing insurance for their home is?

Rory Gill:

Purchasing insurance? I don't think so. They might know somebody have a friend or they saw sign or worse a Superbowl commercial and then they just give them a call.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, I think zero is the answer. And you know, in fact, most Oh, it's almost zero have seen their policy before they purchased it. Most people don't see their policy in the United States before they purchase their insurance. That is wild, because everything else you purchase in the United States. You see before you purchase it even on Amazon, you see a photo of it right? It might not be an accurate photo we all find out. But but we are a consumer culture that looks before we buy. We might make foolish choices. We might spend too much. We might buy something that wasn't a good investment. But we look before we buy as a culture. However, insurance has done this fantastic job of training us that they're so great. And everything is so perfect that you do not need to look before you buy. And what's weird about that is insurance is supposed to protect the single investment most people ever make. It's one thing if they were selling you a pack of Skittles, right? No offense to Skittles company. We know what it is. It's a fruit candy. Some people love it. Some people don't. We know what we're getting with insurance, they are selling you a document that is anywhere between 10 and 200 pages, that talks about what they're going to do for you and what they're not going to do for you. And they don't even give you the opportunity to look at it before you buy it. You have that opportunity, they just don't offer it up to you and you don't ask for it. So that's the first thing you really need to do is purchase insurance with intention. actually sit down, look at the sample policy, find out what endorsements and exclusions are going to be in your policy. The state only does so much for you. Insurance is governed state by state, it's not federal. So for instance, in Louisiana, if you if you're going to buy wind exclusion, you have to sign a form. That's cool. But in Texas, you don't need a frozen pipe exclusion. You don't need to sign if you get a frozen pipe exclusion. And they had the pipe freeze just last year, it was absolutely terrible. And so we got so many calls, hundreds and hundreds of calls. And we have two active cases from those hundreds of calls. Because when we signed them, and we got their policy, we found frozen pipe exclusions all over the place. People didn't even know what they were buying. And most of them said I would not have purchased a policy had I known that I was not going to get a frozen pipe coverage.

Jason Muth:

And at the time, I mean how many pipes were freezing in Texas? This was outside Dallas, right? Is that were all the pipes are freezing.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, they were well, they froze all over the state because the power grid went down, which is a whole separate political discussion. But it was it was the largest single event of our time still to this day. It probably will be for a while because Texas is so big. But interestingly enough, pipes were freezing in Texas for many, many years. I was a kid I'm I'm from Arlington, right outside Dallas. And once a year, we used to have to go put the styrofoam on the outside of our like outside water spigots. And like, you know, we had to keep the water running like this did happen. It was a known risk. Anyone that lived in Texas knew it could happen. But it was rare. And they weren't even told that they were getting those exclusions, but the insurance company knew that it could happen. And they knew it could happen on a mass scale, or they wouldn't have invested in writing those exclusions and all of their policies.

Rory Gill:

What prevents the insurance, what prevents the insurance companies from competing on quality of of policy? I mean it what's the why can an insurance company just say we have the least amount of exclusions, we have the best policy? You know, come explore policies with us.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, the American people. That's that's the answer. That sounds so weird. And I'm not a conspiracy theorist, I promise you. But people don't. If people don't behave like smart buyers, then companies have no reason to offer more value for their dollar, right? It's every company responds to consumer behavior. It doesn't matter what business you're in, you're watching consumer behavior, and you're adapting to it to choke out the competition. But if no one actually cares what's in the policy when they're buying insurance, then what's the reason to offer better? There are two or three insurance companies that offer really premium, we call them Cadillac policies. I think they're the best policies in the world. I have one of them. Okay. There are plenty though. They're like three, not plenty. And people that know that care about insurance look for those. Okay. But people that don't know, don't care, and they're not willing to spend the extra money for those better policies.

Jason Muth:

When you're talking about extra money, like, is it 2x? 3x? Incremental?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, depends on where you are. I would say it's incremental. It's usually not 2x. Well, it's, it's 2x above a terrible policy that provides no coverage with an insurance company that won't pay you anyway. Even if there is coverage, it's probably a factor of that. But I'll tell you, what I pay on my insurance is one and a half times what my next door neighbor pays. My claim is settled. From Hurricane Ida, I am done. Everything is fixed. I am out of pocket, not a dollar. My next door neighbor is about to become our client, because half of their house is still missing and they haven't received a penny. So I feel good about my 1.5 times price.

Jason Muth:

You know, you mentioned Hurricane Ida. I mean, we see this on the news, obviously. I mean, like it affects us here. You know, the oceans are rising. I don't know if you see, you know, any of the photos from when the Boston Harbor ends up on the sidewalk. But you know, that's always in the news these days, you know, for really high tides, astronomical high tides, big storms coming in, you know, as a way of like, hey, it's coming. It's coming. It's coming. I mean, this brand new neighborhood was just just built right down the street from us right now. The Seaport and, you know, there's gonna be water everywhere at some point. So, so we see it or hear, we see it around us. You mentioned the Hurricane Ida. You know, your claim was settled your neighbors, you know, he's gonna become a client. Like, did everybody have a claim after a storm like that? Like you almost say it as though like, oh, yeah, you know, I got my coffee they got their coffee like, you know, to us like hearing something like that is like oh my god you an insurance claim, like but did everybody have one?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, so there's two types of events, there's what we call single events, where well, they're all single events, I suppose. But there's isolated events a fire, someone leaves their Christmas tree on, they light a candle and it gets too close to your curtain, the house burns down, that's going to be an isolated event that hopefully is not going to affect more than you. Pipe freezes also pretty isolated. That's what makes Texas so unique is it was so widespread. But then there's mass events and mass events, depending on the nature of them, can just take out an entire region. So personally, Hurricane Ida, when you look at the wind speeds, I do not think there is a home or commercial building in Southeastern Louisiana that legitimately does not have a hurricane claim. Some people may not even see damage, right now, they might have had a new roof. Or they might have just recently built a building. So they're looking at it, it looks good, maybe a broken window, no problem. But if you brought out good engineers, and did stress tests on those roofs, those buildings, those foundations, those piers, all of the structural components, you would find compromise on the vast majority of those buildings.

Jason Muth:

And this might be a stupid question, but it's a business question. You know, there are insurance companies that are still writing policies in regions where there are mass events, and mass events are happening more frequently, the once in a lifetime event that you've mentioned was you've mentioned many once in a lifetime event. So clearly, it's not once in a lifetime event, you know, which is kind of a tongue in cheek right there. So why are they still writing

Galen Hair:

Well, yeah, so there's a couple of reasons. I policies? mean, some of them are not going to, that's the reality. That's the the scarier part that we're gonna have to deal with in five to 10 years is what will insurance look like? Will we have to switch to more of a government subsidized insurance system, because we're already there, we have government subsidized insurance, and almost every state already, some of these carriers are not going to be able to afford it, that we're going to see more of a consolidation across the industry. Over the last 15-20 years, we've started to get a lot of small insurance companies regional based in one area or another, but when you have a big event in that area, it'll take that insurance company out. So you'll be left left with like the really big companies that advertise during the Superbowl that you're used to seeing everywhere, because they have enough risk spread out that they can survive a massive event in Massachusetts, because they're making money from 49 other states.

Rory Gill:

I wanted to ask also, so you know, you know, preparing for the long term buying in advance and getting the right insurance. Policy is great. What do you do in your the situation? What are some advice when you know disasters about to happen? So you already have your insurance policy is too late to change. But the weather shows a hurricane coming in in four days. What advice would you give to people in that situation to, to put them in the strongest position afterward?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, two things prevent and document. Okay. So first is document when you know, something's going to happen. If you know, walk through your house, take a lot of photos, take a lot of videos, exterior and interior. Take photos of your contents. You won't like the crazy OCD advice. Once a year, you should be documenting the condition of your home and inventorying what you have in your home, I realized that is in sane and no one does it. But if you want the real advice, that's what you should be doing. There are actually companies that will come value all your contents for you. Because that's actually your largest asset that's your home. It's all the stuff inside of it because you took your whole life to acquire that stuff. And it's worth so much more than you realize. But that's the first step is document. The second step is prevent. This is both a regular thing and when you know a disaster is coming again. OCD advice. I know we're all busy. Once a month you should be going through your house and identifying things that need maintenance that need fixing that door that still squeaks like just get it to stop squeaking. Okay, it's probably not a big deal. It's probably not going to affect a disaster. But that window that suddenly doesn't close. Water is going to get in through that window. Let's get that window closed. Right? So so everything that you know you need to fix that's on your honey do list or whatever. Just set aside a Saturday afternoon once a month and get it done. And if you can't do it, hire someone to do it. There's a good reason for this number one document you did it. Number two, the biggest reason for denials or underpayments is what insurance companies called deferred maintenance. It was already bad, it was already broken. You're a bad homeowner. So you didn't do these things. We're just busy. We're not bad homeowners. But insurance companies are looking for ways to prevent that and then right before a disaster, there will be kind of disaster specific protocols you can take, right? If it's a hurricane and you think water might come in putting sandbags in front of your doors is obviously big boarding up your windows. If it's pipe freezing, as I said, in Texas, we all went and took those - I don't even know if those worked - but we all went and put those Styrofoam things on the outside of our water faucets like, what there's going to be disaster specific things where you figure out, Okay, here's what's going to happen for this type of damage. And here's what I'm going to do to lessen it. You board up your windows, before a hurricane, you're probably not going to have any broken windows, that's awesome. Your windows still may need help because of the wind speed, etc. But what you've prevented is debris and water from coming in through those windows, which lessens your damage. Right? So whatever it is, you got to do that. Now there's some things you can't do anything for? How do you first of all, you're not going to know a hurricane is coming. An earthquake is coming. But how do you stop an earthquake? You don't? Right? How do you you know, in California, you get the wildfires, they spray everything down, they dig these ditches, right? There are some things you can do a tornado a you don't know what's coming until about 10 minutes before and the only thing you can do is go in the bathroom with the mattress and hope nothing bad happens, right? So so you're not responsible for preventing any and all damage that a disaster could cause. But you want to at a minimum as a good homeowner, do what you can to minimize that damage. If there's something reasonable you can do.

Rory Gill:

Okay. Can I ask just a typical New Englanders question about the whole Texas pipe freezing incident? I know this is off topic a little bit. It's just been bothering me, when we know if there's a big risk of pipes freezing, why weren't people just turning off their water in advance of that? It seems like one of the things you can do That's somewhat foreseeable.

Galen Hair:

I think I think some of them were, I think a lot of them were, but there's still water in the pipes. You know, I guess the theory would be, you'd probably want to go turn off your water at the street, which a lot of people can't do because you need a tool. And then you'd want to run your water indoors until it empties out those pipes. And then I guess you'd have completely empty pipes that would prevent the freezing but a lot of people did. The other thing people did and this was this is where it gets weird, right, The other people think people, they just just run their water barely, because you're taught Oh, if you keep water moving through, it doesn't have enough time to freeze. Two things, it got really freaking cold. So it froze a lot faster than they thought it was and be everyone was doing it. So the water pressure dropped to zero. So it was just a situation where no matter what you did, even if it was supposed to be the right thing, It ended up being the wrong thing. And I don't know that there was an answer. I really feel bad for all of those folks that were negatively affected in Texas because it was it was rough. And there's people now sitting there holding the bag on $30, $40, $50,000 mitigation bills to clean up their homes.

Jason Muth:

This feels like the type of industry and category that you have not stumbled upon but smartly built your business that is never going to go away. Right? I mean, talk about talk about recession proof businesses, like I feel like your law practice is exactly that.

Galen Hair:

Well, my partner thinks that for sure. I'm not as optimistic. I think at some point, we as a society, are going to have to figure out what we want to do about insurance. And I think that's the risk to my business is that that fundamentally changes and I'm a little unique, because I'm going to have this opportunity at some point to spend money with roofing contractors and all these insurance people to spend money and try to keep insurance alive. Or I can do the moral and ethical thing and do whatever is going to be best for the people. So I already know which one I'm going to do. Hopefully anyone listening knows which one I'm going to do but but at the end of the day, there's going to be a shift. I don't think it's going to be this decade or even next decade, but I can see my business getting taken out by the lack of by the current structure, we have disappearing. And that might be a great thing. So as I said, if my business goes out for the right reason, I'll be the happiest bartender in the world.

Jason Muth:

And you know, morality and ethics is something that I think everyone should live by. I know that there's certain things that you know, I ask Rory, I ask him a ridiculous long list of questions because we do real estate investing on the side and he has a real estate brokerage as well. And, you know, his head always goes to ethics, like always as it should, like you guys are attorneys, like you take oaths, right? So, you know, you want to have integrity with what you do. So you know if you're right if, if, if that's what takes your business out and great, then you do the right thing. Let me ask a question. Bring it back to New England a little bit. You know, since we are here in Boston, I know we have listeners everywhere. Thank you for that. But in New England you have an office here in in Boston, I took a look where it was it's like right downtown. What are you seeing differently in New England versus what you're experiencing in your other practice states in the South?

Galen Hair:

Right now New England is a great place to live. If you want my personal opinion, because we have less work in New England than almost anywhere else. You guys scared us. You scared us at the beginning of hurricane season, I was really worried, I thought we were gonna have the first massive hurricane season really just slammed the East Coast and it didn't. Normally, we're going to see a lot of it's going to shock you to hear this a lot of snow and ice incidents, just tons of snow and ice incidents. And you know that we maintain properties and we take care of them differently in different parts of the country. And there's a reason for that and that's important. So despite all the ice and snow you guys get, we don't have roofs just collapsing all day, every day. But we do have some roof collapses. So we deal more roof collapses, pipe bursts, there will be an isolated storm that will have some really high wind speeds, that will kind of come off of the coast. Well, we'll get some of that. But candidly, I mean, at the sake of getting ousted by my Louisiana brethren, if if right now I was I said, I was told where do you want to go? Where do you want to live where the weather is not going to take out our home? I didn't say nicer. I said we're won't take out our home, I would probably be in the Northeast. And I know that sounds weird. But you know the it because it's cold. It's definitely cold. But but frankly, the weather is mother nature, I think puts you guys through enough on a day to day basis that she's kinder in terms of global devastation.

Jason Muth:

Rory, you've lived here your whole life.

Rory Gill:

That's that's I mean, that seems like the trade off the weather's never. It's always a little bit mean, but never, you know, it's never the meanest. So we'll take that we'll take the trade off. And then just kind of keeping up with my flow of questions here. Do you have any advice for somebody and what they should be doing in the immediate aftermath of a disaster, so they can get ready for their insurance claim?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, so that document is a two step process, you document before and you document after. And you need to do just as well a job documenting after, take photos of everything, take videos of everything start to itemize immediately what you've lost. You know, this is a lawyer Rory, your memory, our clients memory is never going to be better than it is right after the disaster, you may be emotional, okay, so you may need to step away and come back. But your memory is never going to be better. If I asked you two years after a hurricane, what you lost in that hurricane, I am fighting a losing battle. So make your list now, document takers save what you can preserve what you can. I understand you can't save everything I get it. Make sure you have documentation though before you start throwing things away. Because the insurance company is not going to like that you throw things away. And that's the biggest piece after the disaster. But the second piece is mitigation of damages. In almost every policy, probably every policy I've ever read, there's a duty to mitigate your damages. And that's also a legal concept that Rory and I had to deal with since law school, right? And what that means is you can't let what happened get worse. If you're gonna go after someone for what they did to you. In this case, your insurance company didn't do anything, but they owe you for it. You don't want to let the situation get worse. So if you had a bunch of water come in, you need to get it dried up, you need to call a mitigation company, have them dry everything out. If windows are broken, get them boarded up. So things and people can't keep coming in. If you got a big hole in your roof, get it tarped get it shrink wrapped. No one, no one likes to talk about shrink wrapping and the insurance like a dirty word. But they actually can come like Saran Wrap your roof with a super thick shrink wrap. And it lasts for a year. Which by the way, it takes all the pressure off of you while you're trying to negotiate your insurance claim, which is why insurance companies don't like it. But do whatever you have to do. We call it like seal that property, we want that property sealed up nice and tight after it's been damaged. So nothing can keep coming in. And then we want to get all the bad stuff out. That's what you really need to do right after disaster.

Rory Gill:

Okay, and you know, for the documenting for, can it be as simple and non technical as a smartphone video walkthrough to help preserve the record?

Galen Hair:

Yeah, I mean, thousands and thousands of claims and that the couple of people that like hired a professional videographer is like what? Just do it yourself, get a friend to help you. I'll tell you this, if you just lost everything you own and you're in a really bad position, get a friend to help you get a family member to help you. You need the moral support as well. I find a lot of people later when they don't have videos or photos of anything. And I really asked him why it's just because it was too much. They just couldn't handle it. That's normal. That's human. And that's kind of the third part. I guess that's a little hippie dippie but go get help, like get mental health. And there's a reason for that. Disaster. Not in a good place right now. And you need to know that that's normal and that's okay and sometimes It takes a qualified professional to tell you that. And there's nothing wrong with that do not feel weird that you're in therapy after your house burns down, that is normal, go get the

Jason Muth:

I mean, between situations like that, and you therapy. know, living through COVID for a couple years now, mental health is never more present than today. We hear about it a lot on TV, read about it a lot, you know, so absolutely. I totally agree with that. Rory, any final questions for Galen before we get to our official final questions?

Rory Gill:

Hopefully, I won't have too many more questions, either now or in this life for Galen.

Jason Muth:

Yeah, I know. We're kind of hoping we don't have to deal with you all that much, Galen. But like if we do we know exactly who to call? We could probably talk for five hours, like you know, and so we'll have to have you back for, you know, other episodes, to hear more about some of the war stories and the craziest situations that you found yourself in. So that that will be an open invite for you to return to The Real Estate Law Podcast in the future.

Galen Hair:

Awesome.

Jason Muth:

So why don't we get to the final three questions that we ask all of our guests here just to get to know you a little bit more, and to wrap things up. The first question is, if you were to walk on stage for 30 minutes with zero preparation, and talk about anything in the world, not insurance claims and disaster mitigation, everything, what would that be?

Galen Hair:

Alright, so this sounds crazy. I acknowledge this. All right. I had to do this. When I was in college, it was like some improv class or whatever. And I did on my own a speech on paper clips versus rubber bands. That sounded so silly, and I had no idea how much I would like that. So now today, in fact, the only thing my partners and I have ever had knockdown drag out fights about are office supplies. I have the weirdest habits, the strongest opinions and I can talk about office supplies, where they come from, how they're made. Why this one's better than that one. While the cost isn't justified. It is crazy. I understand. I hope no one hates me because of it. But I have I can talk about office supplies for hours and would gladly do so if you give me the chance.

Jason Muth:

I'm fascinated by office supply catalogs. Like your New England, W.B. Mason is a big one in New England. And like they sent out this big thick book. And it's like, I mean, I'm dating myself, but it's like the Sears catalog or the Toys R Us catalog like you look through this thing. And you're like, Oh, my God, all this stuff, all in one spot. So I could really - do you have a favorite office supply? I've never asked that question.

Galen Hair:

Yeah, so I'm a W.B. Mason fan, they're harder to get down here. But big W.B. Mason fan, in fact, at the risk of really making myself sound crazy. So I will take those catalogs and I will find the things I want and I like put them up on my wall. So it looks like A Beautiful Mind in there. You know, and I'll have them circled. Like one night or one weekend, and then my office manager come in and I'll be like, I want these things and she'll be like you were psycho.

Jason Muth:

I have an obsession with sticky notes too, Rory could actually attest to that. There's the sticky notes everywhere. All colors, sticky notes. Love them. Okay, question number two, let's move on. Tell us something that happened early in your life or career that impacts the way that you're working today.

Galen Hair:

So when I my first real job kind of changed everything about my life, I guess I worked at a flea market, grilling chicken for a barbecue rub store. And I guess you have to understand that but it was called Obie Cue Texas Spice they made all these rubs in Texas when we do barbecue, we don't use sauce, we use rub. So it's just seasoning you put on it. And the way that we would sell this stuff is we would make like hundreds of pounds of chicken a day on a grill. And we would then cut it into tiny little pieces. And we would you I guess you can't do this anymore with COVID. But we would just yell at people like down the hall trying to get them to come get free chicken. Like you've been to them all. And they got the crazy people with the chicken and they're like free sample free sample free sample. We basically were those people but Texan cowboy hats, you know, the people of age are drinking beer, but I was like 15 and it changed my approach to everything I do. I learned how to engage people that didn't want to talk to me. I learned how to make people come in. I learned how to sell people things they didn't know they wanted or needed. And I've used that ever since more in like a nonprofit way like you know how to get people engaged, how to get people happy. I don't really go out on the street and sell as a lawyer because that's unethical and we're not allowed to do that. But it has changed everything I've done from day one. I spent three years cooking, cutting chicken and then forcing it down people's throat and explaining why it tastes so good. And I think without that experience I would probably never have gone. Frankly they also forced me to go to college. I was totally broke and they helped me get the funds to go to college, which is really neat. And they changed everything about my life, I still stay in touch with them to this day.

Jason Muth:

Yeah, it's crazy how those early jobs teach life's lessons. And you know, everything you described right there, I'm sure they did not teach you in law school, they teach you policy, they teach you how to be an attorney. But you know, it's a - everything is a sales job, right, you know, running a business, they don't teach you that in law school. So you learned communications, you learn how to sell things, you learn how to talk to people, you know, from talking free chicken, you know, where you want them to buy something. And you still remember today, you said, you still stay in touch with those folks, like, you know, I think we all have those jobs we had in our teenage years that we can remember vividly. And I could fold anything really well, because of my job at The Gap when I was in my teens.

Galen Hair:

Well, and we use it still. So I go into these disaster zones, and we give out supplies and one of the things and I make the best chicken in the world. I just do, I'm sorry, to anyone that thinks they're good at making chicken, I'm better. And one of the things we do is bring these big, like trailer smokers, and make just thousands of pounds of chicken for people and feed them because they don't have any food or the linemen are working and they're trying to get the power back. So we feed them for free. The other benefit of this job that I didn't realize I would actually use is you get free seasoning for life. So every time there's a disaster, they ship me like 100 gallons of this stuff. And we go through it. But I mean, I've gotten more than what they paid me in the three years I work there just in free stuff. Like for disasters for people. I'm sure they regret the day they hired me. But um, but it's a benefit. They promised it to me and I hold him hold him to it. So even that skill, I literally affect 1000s and 1000s of people that were in need with what I learned, which is really cool.

Jason Muth:

That's awesome. That's great. That's really cool. What other attorneys can say that? Rory are you doing that?

Rory Gill:

I barely cook for, I barely cook for two people. So I don't do that for I don't I don't know if I want to poison a thousand people who've been through enough already, so.

Galen Hair:

I'll teach you how to make my chicken.

Jason Muth:

All right. All right. Well, we're gonna hold you to that. Finally, your final question for you tell us something that you're listening to reading or watching these days.

Galen Hair:

Oh, so right now so my fiance and I huge like Narcos fans. I don't know if I wanted to be like a drug lord, my previous life. We've worked our way through all the Narcos series. So we are deep into Queen of the South and we're loving it.

Jason Muth:

We haven't been there yet. But I've seen Narcos like I've seen it promoted. Like we really have to watch that show. Like I've heard such great things about it.

Rory Gill:

I'm looking forward to when our daughter gets a little bit older and she can entertain herself because right now we anything that involves a plot or we can't really watch, so.

Jason Muth:

Very. She's repeating everything right now. So like, yeah.

Galen Hair:

You can't watch Narcos show with a while she repeats everything.

Jason Muth:

No, no. Do you have kids Galen, or no?

Galen Hair:

I do not, no. I have four dog kids.

Jason Muth:

When you when you do and if you do that, what they'll tell you is like you can watch anything you want the first like six to twelve months if anything like watch Game of Thrones, it doesn't matter. Right? But then they'll start picking up on stuff afterwards, so. After then it shifts very quickly over into Mickey Mouse Clubhouse.

Galen Hair:

That's awesome.

Jason Muth:

Um, so great. So why don't you tell everybody where they can find you? Because if you are still listening, you're probably leaning into this conversation, say how do I get a hold of this guy?

Galen Hair:

So the websites easy insuranceclaimhq.com. We're also on Facebook and Instagram. And candidly, those are really the two best places to get us because we're checking that all the time. I'm personally checking that. But if you really need us, and it's an emergency, you can call us 844-CLAIM-84. And I will actually get back with you personally if you need me.

Jason Muth:

What a cool phone number. That's the kind of phone number that you put in marketing. Like you don't put a random seven digit number. You buy a number like that. And that is your marketing. Rory, where can people find you? Cool, and if you're still listening, I really want you to rate for thumb up or comment on this episode because we really appreciate it. You know, we love hearing from people who are listening. And if you just take the time to do one

Rory Gill:

I'm easy to find. But my phone number is not of those things that would really help us out and it would help with the algorithms and promote this to more people. So thank you once again. Thank you, Galen, for joining us for the memorable. So I'll give you my website. So UrbanVillage Legal, episode. Thank you, Rory. Thank you, everybody. We really appreciate it. Thank you so much for listening to The Real Estate urbanvillagelegal.com, or NextHome Titletown. Nexthometitletown.com. Law Podcast, and we'll see you next time.

Announcer:

This has been The Real Estate Law Podcast. Because real estate is more than just pretty pictures. And law goes well beyond the paperwork and courtroom arguments. were powered by NextHome Titletown greater Boston's progressive real estate brokerage. More at nexthometitletown.com and UrbanVillage Legal, Massachusetts real estate counseling serving savvy property owners, lenders and investors more at urbanvillagelegal.com. Today's conversation was not legal advice, but we hope you found it entertaining and informative. Discover more at realestatelawpodcast.com Thank you for listening!