CHICAGO — Forecasters are predicting a severe winter storm, with blizzard conditions and the potential to dump 1-2 feet of snow across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast. In these extreme conditions motorists and homeowners can experience significant damages, according to the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI).
Within hours heavy snow and ice can leave streets nearly impassable and downed utility lines can cause power outages. In these hazardous conditions there are often many auto accidents and homeowners can have problems with roofs and frozen pipes.
With potential snowfall rates of 1 to 4 inches per hour in some areas and blizzard or near-blizzard conditions possible, individuals in the affected areas should avoid driving if possible. But if you must travel, make sure your car has an emergency kit and your phone is charged.
“Homeowners and motorists should not underestimate the amount of damage that snow can cause,” said Chris Hackett, director personal lines for PCI. “Property damage from winter storms is the third largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes. Whenever severe weather occurs, insurers are prepared to work with consumers to minimize the inconveniences and help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible. Insurers encourage property owners to report their claims as soon as possible to begin the recovery process. If there is damage make temporary repairs and keep receipts, as those costs may be reimbursed under your policy.”
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