If you’re like most people, when you hear of an impending storm, such as a hurricane, winter storm, tornado, or hailstorm, your first instinct is to prepare. You get your home and car ready and brace for damage. Images of ripped up siding, damaged roofs, and uprooted and fallen trees enter your mind. Fortunately, having homeowners insurance and auto insurance is half the battle. And while there’s no such thing as hurricane insurance, snowstorm insurance or even tornado insurance, there is coverage for the elements associated with these severe weather events. Of all homeowners insurance claims of 2019, 97 percent were related to property damage according to the Insurance Information Institute (III). Of that amount, one-third pertained to damage caused by wind and hail and one-quarter involved damage done by fire and lightning. So, property damage with severe weather can be expected. But does your homeowners policy cover all severe weather events and damage, and what coverage does your auto policy provide for bad weather? Let’s find out.
Standard homeowners policies cover many severe weather-related damages to your home property, but not every weather event or natural disaster is covered. It’s important that you familiarize yourself with your homeowners policy, what it covers, and its limits before an important storm or weather-related event occurs. So, what types of weather damage are generally covered and what aren’t?
What’s typically covered
- Hail & ice damage. Hail and ice damage, whether in the form of damage to your roof, siding or window, or frozen pipes, is a common home insurance claim.
- Lightning, power outages & surges, fire. Lightning strikes, including those to your house or other structure, as well as damage resulting from fire, power surges and power outages, such as to your electronics, are covered.
- Wind damage. Wind damage from a hurricane, winter storm, or other storm that could result in damage to your roof, siding as well as fallen or uprooted trees, is covered.
- Certain types of water damage. If water damage to your home is sudden and accidental, such as rainwater entering your home due to storm winds, then it is typically covered under homeowners policies.
- The chances of having damages to your home property based on wildfires depends largely on the state in which you reside. However, it is a weather-related event that is generally covered on your homeowner’s policy.
What typically isn’t covered
Though many severe weather-related damages to your home are covered by homeowners policies, there are quite a few common ones that are not.
- Flooding, which can occur from storms, an over-saturated ground, or surging bodies of water from rivers, lakes, or oceans, is not covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy. To get this protection, flood insurance must be purchased separately.
- Earthquakes and other earth movement. Earthquakes and other earth movement, such as mudslides, landslides, and sinkholes are not covered in typical homeowners policies and must be purchased separately from a private insurer or, depending on your state, through a state authority.
- Damage due to lack of maintenance or neglect. If there’s been a lack of maintenance on your part as a homeowner or neglect in the care of your home, such as gutters that are not cleaned or unrepaired pipes, then severe weather-related claims won’t be covered.
As it is not part of a traditional homeowners policy, flood insurance can be purchased separately through a private insurer or through the federally funded National Flood Insurance Program. You can get flood protection for your home, personal belongings, or both, and it isn’t just for areas that are considered high-risk of flooding. All 50 states in the U.S. have experienced flooding, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
What if someone else’s property damages yours?
Typically, whatever is your property is your responsibility. So, if someone else’s property damages your property, such as a neighbor’s tree falling into your yard after a severe storm, you will be responsible and your homeowners insurance will likely cover it. However, if your neighbor has been neglectful in the care of the tree, they may be responsible for the damages.
Homeowners disaster deductibles
Damages pertaining specifically to windstorms, hail, or a hurricane may require a separate, higher deductible than your standard homeowners deductible. These homeowners disaster deductibles can be a fixed amount or based on a percentage of your home’s value — usually one to five percent — which could be into the thousands of dollars. Considering this, it’s important that you choose the right deductible options for your needs as a homeowner. Hurricane deductibles are normally triggered by an official hurricane ruling from the National Weather Service, but can vary by state and insurance carrier.
How to file a homeowners claim for weather damage
- Contact your insurance carrier right away. Most insurance companies are available 24 hours a day for you to file a claim, whether by phone or online.
- Document the damage. As soon as you can, take photos or video of the damage to your home, detached structures or belongings, and keep this information together. Some experts recommend taking photos or videos of your home and belongings routinely (every six months to a year) to document its normal state.
- While waiting, keep all records and receipts. If you need to take action to prevent further damage to your home or for temporary shelter, keep all receipts and record any money you spent for the insurance company in order to be reimbursed.
- Be patient. The claims adjuster will need to visit your home, so it’s important that you be patient in the claims process until it is completely resolved for these severe weather claims.
All damages to your car pertaining to severe weather, including weather events such as hurricanes, tornados, wildfires as well as flooding and hail, are covered under your vehicle’s comprehensive coverage.
One area of concern is binding restrictions, which is more common with floods and hurricanes. An insurance company can elect to restrict new business or changes to an existing policy in the days or weeks prior to a severe weather event. So, to protect your vehicle, it’s a good idea to have comprehensive coverage well in advance of any severe weather storms.
Collision coverage only pertains to at-fault collisions by an insured driver to other vehicles or objects. It does not cover any severe weather claims, including fallen trees, or other wind thrown objects.
How to file a car insurance claim for weather damage
- Contact your insurance carrier right away. As with homeowners insurance claims, you’ll need to contact your insurer immediately if there is weather damage to your vehicle. This can be done by phone or online in most instances, 24 hours a day.
- Document the damage. Take photos or video of the damage to your car as well as any important notes of the weather event.
- Be patient. If there was a major storm, other people may be affected, so be patient in the claims process for your car. Driving your vehicle may not be advisable. Speak with your adjuster and make sure the damage isn’t significant if you choose to drive the car.
How to prevent weather damage to your vehicle
Stay alert for severe weather warnings. Be informed of any potential storms or perils that are forecasted for your area.
Make sure you have enough coverage. Ensure that you have comprehensive coverage for your vehicle and review your deductible.
Take cover. If your vehicle is parked, make sure it is in a covered or protected structure, away from trees and other objects, and in a low-lying area in the event of flooding. If you are driving, avoid puddles and standing water, drive slowly, and take cover on the side of the road or underneath a structure as soon as possible. Windows can be protected with clothing or blankets.
Article last updated on October 27th, 2023 at 12:42 pm