Pennsylvania Insurance Department Offers Tips for Winter Storm Victims

January 6, 2014

The Pennsylvania Insurance Department offers the following advice and tips about homeowner’s and auto insurance policies in wake of last week’s winter storm.

First, damage to the house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice, creating a collapse, is covered under standard homeowner’s insurance policies. Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, when water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls, is also covered.

Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by the homeowner’s policy, but consumers should check with their company before calling a tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered.

Consumers should also ask their insurance company about food spoilage as a result of a power outage, debris clean up, structural damage to the home, rain spouts, sewage problems, broken water pipes, freezing pipes and furnace damage, to name a few.

For drivers, the auto insurance coverage pays for damage the policyholder, or someone driving the car with the policyholder’s permission, may cause to someone else’s property due to ice, snow and slippery roads. This also includes damage to lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, buildings or other structures the insured’s car may hit.

Damage to the insured’s car resulting from colliding with another car, object or as a result of flipping over is covered if the insured carries the optional collision coverage of the policy. It also covers damage caused by potholes.

If the policyholder opted to carry comprehensive coverage on the auto policy, damage to the insured’s car caused by heavy wind, flooding, falling ice or tree limbs is covered.

The insurance department recommends these steps to help make the insurance process easier to navigate:

• Contact the insurance company immediately and follow the instructions given by claims personnel. The insureds should keep a log of the people they spoke with and ask questions if they do not understand instructions.

• Separate damaged and undamaged property for the adjuster to examine. Do not throw away damaged property until the insurance company’s adjuster advises it is all right to do so.

• Wait for the adjuster to arrive. Do not call anyone to repair or replace the loss without first getting instructions from the adjuster.

• If the policyholder’s home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster looks at the damage. Permanent repairs could trigger a denial of claim.

• Be careful when choosing a contractor to make repairs. Before signing a contract, check references to make sure it’s a reputable firm.

• If the claim is denied, review the terms of the policy for what is or is not covered. The policyholder may also file an appeal to the insurance company’s claim manager. If questions remain, consumers can also contact the insurance department for assistance.

Source: Pennsylvania Insurance Department

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