BOSTON – With blizzard warnings issued across the Northeast, millions of people are bracing for what could be the strongest winter storm of the season. Under these conditions, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) reminds homeowners that significant property damage is possible and insurers are ready to work with consumers to minimize the inconveniences and help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible.
Forecasters are calling for heavy snow, powerful winds and widespread coastal flooding which could last until through Tuesday. In addition to affecting the Northeast, the storm is expected to produce snow over parts of the Upper Great Lakes and the Southern Appalachians.
“Homeowners and motorists should not take the power of this storm lightly,” said Frank O’Brien, vice president for PCI. “The potential for power outages, flooding and property damage due to falling tree branches means that homeowners should stay alert to potential hazards. Motorists should also exercise extreme caution. With the likelihood of heavy snow, drifting and blizzard conditions, motorist can easily find themselves stranded or involved in traffic accidents. Already this season around the country we have seen numerous multi-car pile ups. However, if your home or auto experiences damage during the storm, you should report the claim to your insurance company or agent as soon as possible to begin the recovery process.
PCI offers consumers the following tips for filing claims and preparing for winter storms:
Cold Weather Homeowners Tips
Only trained individuals should go onto roofs to clear snow.
Check downspouts, drains and gutters to ensure that they are free from ice or debris.
Make sure exhaust vents are clear of snow and ice.
Remove snow from decks and roofs.
Place salt or sand on stoops and stairs to reduce the risk of slips and falls.
Tips for Homeowners
The most frequent problems for homeowners during major snowstorms are power outages, falling trees and damage caused by those falling trees. Consumers should also take note of the following:
Stay away from downed power lines, even if they do not appear to be “live.” Call the power company to report any outages.
Generally damage to refrigerated food caused by a power failure that originates off the residence premises would not be a covered loss.
Damage to trees, shrubs and other plants during an ice storm is not covered under the standard homeowners policy. However, insurance may pay to remove the debris from a fallen tree if it caused damage to a structure covered by insurance.
If your tree damages a neighbor’s property, he or she should file a claim with his or her own insurer.
If the tree falls on your own house, damage to the house is covered. Generally the policy covers the cost to remove the tree from the house.
However if the tree or branch falls and does no damage to a covered structure, generally there is no coverage for the tree or to remove the tree from the premises.
If your property does sustain damage, take the following action:
Report all damage to your insurance company or agent as soon as you can in order to settle your claim more quickly and accurately.
If it is safe to do so, take steps to protect your property from further damage and theft by making emergency repairs. Use plywood, tarps and other materials to cover openings in roofs, walls and windows.
Keep receipts for anything you buy so you can submit them to your insurance company later.
Inventory all damaged property, take pictures of the damage and check with your insurance company before throwing away any damaged property. Identify the structural damage to your home and make a list of everything you would like to show the adjuster.
To settle your claim more quickly and accurately, prepare as much information as possible about your damaged possessions when your insurance adjuster comes to look at your property.