Insurance Coverage Information for Winter-Related Damage Available from the I.I.I.

Winter Storms Are the Third Largest Cause of Property Damage, Totaling about $1 Billion Annually

INSURANCE INFORMATION INSTITUTE
New York Press Office: (212) 346-5500; media@iii.org

NEW YORK, February 10, 2010 — As February’s Fury is predicted to unleash heavy snow and wind in many of the mid-west, north east and mid-Atlantic states over the next few days, many consumers may have questions about their insurance coverage, and the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) is prepared to answer them.
 
Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes, and result in about $1 billion in insured losses each year. From 1999-2008, winter storms resulted in more than $7 billion in insured losses.
 
Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for damage caused by burst pipes, wind, snow and freezing rain,” says Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and consumer spokesperson for the I.I.I. “Car accidents caused by slippery road conditions are also covered under standard auto insurance polices.”
 
The I.I.I. offers the following information on insurance coverage for winter storms:

Auto Policies

  • Car crashes between two or more drivers caused by snowy and slippery roads are covered by liability insurance. A car that crashes into an object would generally be covered under the optional collision portion of an auto policy.
  • Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding or fallen ice or tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy. 

Homeowners Insurance Policies

  • Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property are covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Wind-driven snow or freezing rain that gets into the home because it was damaged by wind is also covered.
  • Tree limbs that fall on a house or other insured structure on the property would be covered for both the damage the trees inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500. Ice or other objects that fall on the home are also covered.
  • Damage to the house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice creating a collapse is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.
  • Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls, is covered. However, there is generally a requirement that the homeowner has reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining the pipes and drains.
  • Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Damage caused by flooding is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.
  • Standard homeowners policies also include additional living expenses in the event that a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster. This would pay for reasonable expenses to live elsewhere while the home is being fixed. 
“Consumers who need to file an insurance claim should contact their insurance agent or company representative as soon as possible,” says Salvatore. “Let your agent know the extent of the damage and then start to document your loss with lists, receipts or photographs. If you have a home inventory, now would also be a good time to access it.”
 
For a related podcast and video on how to file an insurance claim, go to Six Steps to Follow When Filing a Homeowners Insurance Claim.
 
For a related podcast on fallen trees, go to Understanding Trees and Insurance.
 
Information on how to prevent winter-related damage can be found at the Institute for Business & Home Safety.

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