A record number of Pennsylvanians were without power last month after a winter storm left a thick coating of ice across much of the state. Trees and limbs buckled under the pressure of excess weight, bringing down power lines. Homes and cars in the path of the falling debris were also at risk. Ice storms aren’t generally a concern here in California, but wind storms can topple trees and shear off branches.
The weather events sweeping the nation thus far in 2014 have led to an interesting question: What types of weather phenomena are covered by your insurance and what additional coverage may be needed to protect against the unusual?
Residents of the Gulf Coast and Eastern Seaboard are all too familiar with hurricanes, as every year they keep a close eye on the weather to see what the year’s hurricane season will bring. If you live in area prone to hurricanes you need to check your insurance policies carefully to make sure you are covered in the event one of these storms hits. Most homeowners policies will cover damage caused by wind and rain, but flooding is generally only covered by a separate policy.
Ice that accumulates on branches during an ice storm can increase the weight of a branch by up to 30 times, and a half-inch coating on power lines can add 500 pounds of extra weight. Additionally, it can build up on roadways, making driving difficult and often unsafe.
If a branch or tree falls on your house, companies like Mercury Insurance offer dwelling protection as part of homeowners coverage options to guard against storm damage and other similar perils. Review your policy annually with your agent to ensure you’re protected against the unexpected.
If a branch lands on your car, the damages would be covered if you carry comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy. It’s not a requirement to have comprehensive coverage, but if you live in an area affected by severe weather, it’s something you should consider.
What if you’re driving and lose control of your car on the ice? Damage to your vehicle if you collide with another object (e.g., a tree, fence, pole or another vehicle) would be covered if you have collision coverage and damage to the other property would be covered by your property damage liability insurance.
The largest hailstone ever reported in the U.S. hit Vivian, South Dakota in July 2010, measuring eight inches in diameter and weighing 1.94 pounds. It’s not likely you’ll ever experience hail larger than a softball, but if your car or home is damaged due to hail, of any size, you’ll be protected if you carry comprehensive coverage on your auto insurance policy or have dwelling protection in your homeowner’s policy.
The United States has more tornadoes than any other country, averaging more than 1,000 per year and California averages 11 annually. Thankfully, your basic homeowners policy should cover tornado damage, whether it’s from wind or rain. Additionally, comprehensive coverage would cover your car if it rolls over or is damaged by flying debris.
Bankrate.com offers five steps to help assess your insurance needs in the face of a tornado, including knowing your coverage, taking inventory, considering valuables that may require an additional rider, accounting for your living expenses and working with your insurer in the aftermath to file your claim.
Homeowners insurance doesn’t generally cover property damage caused by floods. This is a separate policy that should be purchased through the National Flood Insurance Program. However, check with your agent about whether or not flooding due to burst water pipes is covered by your homeowner’s policy. Once again, comprehensive coverage should protect your vehicle in the event of a flood.
Our homes and vehicles are some of our largest expenses, so it’s important to periodically review insurance policies and make sure to have the proper coverage. And, when it comes to weather, comprehensive coverage is a good investment.