Northeast Digs Out From Major Winter Storm

January 3, 2014

The massive winter storm that impacted the Midwest and Northeast over the past couple of days is moving into the Atlantic on Friday, while very cold temperatures and dangerous wind chills are moving in behind the system, the National Weather Service said.

The first snowstorm of the year dropped nearly 2 feet of snow in northern suburbs of Boston, according to the National Weather Service. Other parts of Massachusetts got as much as 18 inches.

The storm also dumped 10 inches of snow on parts of New York City. In New York, American International Group’s offices were open on Friday, but local employees were encouraged to use their judgment on whether they needed to come in to work on Friday and the company encouraged employees to work from home, an AIG spokesperson said.

In Massachusetts, the state government closed its agencies and offices on Friday and businesses were asked to do the same though they were not required to close.

Boston-based Liberty Mutual Insurance said the company has activated its contingency plans for weather situations, has closed offices in areas hardest hit by the storm for the safety of its employees and is performing all core functions to serve customers.

Plymouth Rock Assurance Corp, a Boston-based auto insurer serving Massachusetts and Connecticut, said its offices remained open since its policy is to stay open unless public transportation is shut down. “That said, our employees’ safety is our primary concern and we encourage them to work from home if the employee is unable to get to work safely due to the weather,” the company said. “Most importantly, we want our employees, and customers and agents, to travel safely.”

Harford, Conn.-based Hartford Financial Services Group said the company was not badly impacted from the storm. “Several of our local offices in Boston, New Jersey and New York are closed today,” a Hartford spokesperson said. “Our Connecticut offices, including our corporate headquarters, are open but we encouraged employees to work from home if they are able to.”

OneBeacon Insurance Group said its Northeast offices are closed on Friday due to the weather and requests from local authorities. Employees who were able to work from home were encouraged to do so. “As we are a geographically diverse company, with locations throughout the U.S., most of our operations are fully functional,” a spokesperson from OneBeacon said. The company said it’s posting updates via the company’s blog and Twitter throughout the day.

The storm blanketed the Northeast with snow and temporarily shut down major roads and grounded flights. For Northeast residents faced with storm damages, the Insurance Information Institute offered the following information on insurance coverage for winter storms:

Auto Insurance Policies

• Property damage liability coverage pays for damage the policyholder (or someone driving the car with the policyholder permission) may cause to someone else’s property caused by ice, snow and slippery roads. Usually, this means damage to other cars, but it also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures the car may hit.

• Collision coverage pays for damage to the insured’s car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes.

• Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding, 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 is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.

• Wind-driven snow, sleet or rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening 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 tree 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 that creates 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 taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining pipes, drains and gutters.

• Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and 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. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.

• Homeowners policies also include additional living expenses — in the event a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster, this would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.

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