PCI Urges Homeowners To Prepare For Winter Storm Season

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The heavy snow that hit in the Appalachians during Superstorm Sandy provided an early reminder of the conditions homeowners may face with the winter ice and snow season coming up. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) encourages homeowners and businesses to be prepared for potential hazards and know what to do, and what is covered by insurance, in the event a major winter storm hits.

“The good news is that under the standard homeowners policies, many of the common problems such as a tree branch causing damage to your roof will be covered,” said Chris Hackett, PCI’s director, personal lines policy.

The heavy snow that hit in the Appalachians during Superstorm Sandy provided an early reminder of the conditions homeowners may face with the winter ice and snow season coming up. The Property Casualty Insurers Association of America (PCI) encourages homeowners and businesses to be prepared for potential hazards and know what to do, and what is covered by insurance, in the event a major winter storm hits.

“The good news is that under the standard homeowners policies, many of the common problems such as a tree branch causing damage to your roof will be covered,” said Chris Hackett, PCI’s director, personal lines policy. “Winter storms can cause significant damage and insurers are ready to work with consumers to minimize the inconveniences and help make the claims process go as smoothly as possible. In the event of a storm, we 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:

Tips for Homeowners
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.
  •     The standard homeowners insurance policy generally does not include food spoilage coverage. Homeowners should check their policies to see if they have coverage for food spoilage.
  •     Damage to trees, shrubs and other plants during an ice storm is not covered under the standard homeowners policy. However, insurance may pay to remove the debris from a fallen tree if it caused damage to a structure covered by insurance.
  •     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.
  •     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. In addition, extra expenses such as overnight parking and laundry services may also be covered. Additional living expense coverage does not pay for all living expenses. It covers only the increase over normal living expenses. This coverage typically is limited to 20 percent of the value of the home or 40 percent of the personal property limits of the condominium or rental property.

Cold Weather Homeowners Tips

  •     Frozen water pipes represent the biggest potential problem for most homes. A little advance planning will usually prevent frozen pipes.
  •     Insulate pipes, especially those leading to the outside, and plug holes around the pipes with insulation or spray-in foam. Make sure there is warm air flowing around pipes that are located near an outside wall. Check pipes under sinks to make sure they will get adequate heat.
  •     Set the heat in the home warm enough to avoid problems. At night, the heating system needs to circulate water through radiator and baseboard heating units to avoid freezing.
  •     Make sure there is clear access to the main water shut-off valve in case there is a leak or a pipe suddenly bursts.
  •     Open the water faucets in your sinks enough to allow a slow trickle of water to maintain the flow of water in the lines and help prevent freezing. Make sure your sink drains are open.

PCI is composed of more than 1,000 member companies, representing the broadest cross-section of insurers of any national trade association. PCI members write over $190 billion in annual premium, 40 percent of the nation’s property casualty insurance. Member companies write 46 percent of the U.S. automobile insurance market, 32 percent of the homeowners market, 38 percent of the commercial property and liability market, and 41 percent of the private workers compensation market.

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