BOSTON — With forecasters predicting another round of severe winter weather for Maine, the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) is encouraging residents to take precautions and not underestimate the power of these storms.
“Another layer of wet, heavy snow on top of what has fallen this past week has the potential to result in significant property damage for homeowners, businesses and motorists,” said Frank O’Brien, vice president state government affairs for PCI. “Although residents in Maine are no strangers to winter storms, a series of snowstorms and the accumulation of snow and ice can put stress on flat roofs, decks, and other structures to the point of collapse. It is important to stay alert to potential hazards and to seek experienced professional help in remedying problems.”
When winter storms cause damage, insurers are prepared to work with consumers to minimize the inconveniences and help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible. PCI encourages property owners to think safety first and to report any claims as soon as possible to begin the recovery process.
To help motorists and homeowners protect their property during the harsh winter months, PCI has launched its Winter Storm Preparedness Reality Check campaign and quiz. PCI is encouraging consumers to follow a few simple tips and take steps to ensure they are ready for the next Arctic blast and winter storm system.
PCI offers consumers the following tips for filing claims and preparing for winter storms:
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.
- 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.
- Talk with your agent about what your deductible will be for the storm damage. The deductible can be either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the home value.
- Many standard homeowners and renters policies provide for reimbursement of additional living expenses when the property is determined to be uninhabitable due to damage. This provision helps in paying for increases to necessary living expenses such as temporary housing and restaurant meals. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses. It covers only the increase over normal living expenses.
Winter Driving Tips
- Hazardous road conditions make it even more important to take safety precautions and drive defensively.
- Winterize your car by checking your antifreeze, battery, tires and windshield wiper fluid. Make sure your headlights, taillights and emergency flashers are working.
- Prepare an emergency travel kit with items such as blankets, jumper cables, a shovel, a flashlight, salt, flares and other emergency supplies. A toolkit, bottled water and snack food are also useful items to include.
- Keep at least half of a tank of gas in your car at all times.
- Slow down and keep extra distance between your car and other vehicles
More information is available at PCI’s Web site: www.pciaa.net/winterstormtips