NEW YORK, Nov. 19, 2014 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ -- An Arctic surge has resulted in bitterly cold temperatures and heavy snow in many areas of the United States, resulting in car crashes and damage to property, according to the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.).
Winter storms are the third-largest cause of U.S. catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes. Winter storms caused $1.9 billion in insured losses in 2013, up dramatically from just $38 million in 2012. From 1994 to 2013 U.S. winter storms resulted in about $27 billion in insured catastrophe losses (in 2013 dollars), or more than $1 billion a year on average, according to Property Claim Services (PCS).
"Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for damage caused by wind, snow, severe cold and freezing rain," said Jeanne M. Salvatore, senior vice president and chief communications officer of the I.I.I. "Car accidents caused by slippery road conditions are also covered under standard auto insurance policies."
The I.I.I. offers the following information on insurance coverage for winter storms:
- Vehicle crashes between two or more drivers caused by snowy and slippery roads are covered by liability insurance. A car that crashes into an object would generally be covered under the optional collision portion of an auto policy.
- Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding or 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 or freezing rain that gets into the home because the home was damaged by wind 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 and 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 the pipes and drains.
- Standard homeowners policies also include additional living expenses (ALE) in the event that 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.
- Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA's National Flood Insurance Program, and a few private insurers. Flood insurance is available to both homeowners and renters. Damage caused by flooding is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies.
"Consumers who need to file an insurance claim should contact their insurance professional as soon as possible," said Salvatore. "Let your agent know the extent of the damage and start to document your loss with lists, receipts or photographs. If you have a home inventory, now would also be a good time to access it."
Information on how to prepare your home against winter-related damage can be found at the Institute for Business & Home Safety.
Facts and Statistics: Winter Storms
THE I.I.I. IS A NONPROFIT, COMMUNICATIONS ORGANIZATION SUPPORTED BY THE INSURANCE INDUSTRY.
Insurance Information Institute, 110 William Street, New York, NY 10038; (212) 346-5500; www.iii.org
SOURCE Insurance Information Institute