A winter storm like the one we've had this week can cause significant damage to your home, ranging from roof collapse to downed trees and flooding. To get what you're owed from insurance, try these tips from the Property Casualty Insurers Association of America:
- Stay away from downed power lines, even if they do not appear to be "live." Call the power company to report any outages.
- Generally, damage to refrigerated food caused by a power failure that originates off the residence premises would not be a covered loss.
- Damage to trees, shrubs, and other plants during an ice storm is not covered under the standard home owners 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. Many policies cover the cost to remove the tree from the house. However, if the tree or branch falls and does no damage to a covered structure, you're probably not covered.
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. The deductible can be either a flat dollar amount or a percentage of the home value.
- Many standard home owners policies provide for reimbursement of additional living expenses if your home is so damaged that you can't live in it. This coverage typically is limited to 20% of the value of the home or 40% of the personal property limits of the condominium or rental property.