As a resident of Essex County, New Jersey, it’s been a surreal week. Superstorm Sandy caused damage in U.S. East coast communities from Virginia to Maine, but especially in the New York/New Jersey region.

Latest estimates from catastrophe modeler Eqecat put insured losses at up to $20 billion and total economic damage at up to $50 billion.

Eqecat said a number of factors influenced its revised estimates including large electric and utility losses that will trigger significantly more insured losses (business interruption) than were expected.

As my neighbors deal with downed trees, damaged homes, lack of power/heat and food spoilage, I’ve been asked a few questions on insurance coverage.

Here are my top 3, with reference to the Insurance Information Institute’s (I.I.I.) Hurricane Sandy FAQs:

1. A tree fell on my house or garage, can I file a claim?

The short answer is yes. If a tree hit your home, that damage is covered under your homeowners insurance policy. If your tree fell on your neighbor’s home or garage, his or her insurer would pay for the damage; however, if the felled tree was poorly maintained or diseased and you took no steps to take care of it, their insurer may seek reimbursement from you for the damages. Homeowners insurance policies do not pay for removal of trees or landscaping debris that did no damage to an insured structure.

2. The power went out during the storm and I had to throw out all the spoiled food in the refrigerator and freezer, is this covered?

Following a hurricane, some insurance companies may include food-spoilage coverage, usually for a set amount that can range from $250 to $500 per appliance. Check with your agent or insurance company.

3. Should I still file a claim if I think the damage is less than my deductible?

Yes. Sometimes there may be additional damage that becomes evident in the months following a significant storm. Filing a claim, even if the damage total is under your deductible, will protect you in the event further repairs are needed. And if your home suffers damage from more than one storm in a single season, the damage from the first storm may apply toward the deductible amount.