Many homes will fall victim to Old Man Winter. Indeed, preventative measures generally fend off most serious damage. However, when the weather delivers a never-ending barrage of snow and ice, the cumulative effect is enough to cause more severe property damage.
Some homeowners will stay present all through the winter. They are able to readily assess any type of damage and make necessary repairs. Or, put additional preventative measures into effect. However, some homeowners will come back from their cold weather retreat, greeted by an unpleasant scene. They’ll discover extensive damage and pay out big time to fix what’s broken.
Calling out three or more contractors, the news doesn’t get any better. The estimates are all comparable yet still very expensive and sticker shock quickly sets in. They nervously flip through their homeowners insurance policy. But, reading and interpreting all the insurance mumbo-jumbo proves not to be an easy task.
Snow, Ice Damage Insurance Claims Not Uncommon
If you watch the morning or evening news, open a newspaper, or tune in the radio, you no doubt heard that these types of claims are on a sharp rise. In years past made it into the insurers’ record books. Claims come in all shapes and sizes, and many homeowners don’t actually know what’s in their policy. There’s often an assumption that damage caused by winter storms and other severe weather events will be included in coverage. However, just because such coverage might be in the policy, there are offsets insurers use to reduce payouts.
“It seems as if almost everyone knows someone who has had a car, home or other property damaged due to the extreme winter weather. Reports of roofs collapsing under the weight of ice and snow are a staple on the local nightly news. Homeowners are complaining about roof leaks caused by ice dams as snow freezes and water backs up under shingles and seeps through the roof. If you’ve experienced damage to your property because of the winter weather, chances are you’ll be filing an insurance claim. But for most people, doing so and getting through the settlement process can be confusing and intimidating.” —CBS News.com
For instance, direct damage caused by sudden accidents, like a falling tree, frozen pipes, or heavy winds are typically covered under homeowners insurance. But, those claim amounts can be reduced due to ongoing property neglect, deterioration, and other insufficient maintenance and insufficient prevention, according to U.S.A.A. So, while damage may be a valid claim, the adjuster will certainly take those factors into account. Such mitigation can even negate a claim, as the insurer will argue if the home had been properly prepared and/or maintained, the damage would not be as severe or even had occurred at all.
Homeowners, Know What to Do
Before you leap into filing an insurance claim for snow or ice damage, it’s time to take action. You’ll want to do everything the “right” way so not to sabotage your own insurance claim. Here are some helpful tips:
- Stop the damage from getting any worse. The insurer will expect that you act in a responsible manner. And, you’ll also want to protect your furniture and other belongings. So, take the initiative and have the fallen tree removed, the roof patched, or whatever is the cause of the problem. But, don’t get rid of anything just yet. You want to preserve as much as possible.
- Hire an experienced adjuster. Insurance policies are filled with industry jargon and legalese, so it’s best to have a professional go through your homeowner’s policy and translate it for you. This individual will also help you determine how to structure your claim. For instance, if a huge mound of snow melts and floods into your home, the insurance company is likely to kick back a claim because most policies don’t cover flooding.
- Document all the damage and preserve every piece of evidence. Photos are a must, as will preserving all damaged property. One of the biggest mistakes people make is to clean up and dispose of what would otherwise be legitimate evidence.
- Ensure your claim is thorough. If you have snow and ice melting into the interior of your home, you’ll have water damage, but it doesn’t end there. What’s likely to follow is mold, which should also be part of your claim.
- Don’t accept the first settlement offer. When you report a loss, an adjuster will come out to evaluate your property. Insurance adjusters typically base their costs on replacement, and average material costs. If you do get a check, don’t deposit it until you’ve reviewed and agree with the line items.