Filing a claim for storm damage with a homeowner’s insurance company can be complicated. Some types of storm damage may be covered, while others may not be. Most homeowner’s insurance policies specify that damage that could be considered flood damage requires separate flood insurance coverage. Homes that are located in areas with a high risk for certain types of storms may also require that additional coverage be purchased.
Storm Damage Coverage
Common storms that may cause damage include hurricanes, windstorms, tornadoes, hail storms, earthquakes, and winter storms. When purchasing homeowner’s insurance, it is important that all aspects of the insurance policy are clearly understood, so that claims for storm damage are not denied. Even if additional storm coverage is purchased, home owners may still need to purchase flood insurance. Nearly all storms carry the risk of causing flood damage, yet flood damage is typically excluded from storm coverage.
Types of Storm Damage
Storm damage may differ depending on the type and severity of the storm, the style of the home, and other factors. Home owners may be advised to take certain precautions in order to limit the amount of damage that storms can cause, such as pruning trees and shuttering windows before a wind storm. There may also be discounts available on insurance premiums for the purchase of items that may help prevent storm damage, such as storm shutters and back-up generators.
Types of damage that homeowners may encounter following storms include:
- Tree damage
- Damage to home and structures from falling trees
- Damage to property and belongings from earthquakes
- Destruction of property from strong winds
- Damage to siding and windows from hail
- Roof collapse from heavy snow
- Damage to foundations, sidewalks, and driveways from ice storms
- Destruction of property from tornadoes and flying debris
- Flooding from melting snow and ice
- Flooding from rising rivers and lakes
- Sewer back-up from flooding
- Lightening damage
Storm Damage Claims
Following a storm that has caused property damage, home owners should contact the insurance company and file a claim as soon as possible. Home owners may be asked to provide a listing of damaged or destroyed property along with an estimated valuation. The insurance company will send out an insurance adjuster to assess and document the damage. An adjuster’s estimates may be lower than the actual cost of repairs, so it may be helpful for the home owner to seek the opinion of an unbiased party.
Denied Storm Damage Claims
If a storm damage claim is denied, the insurance company is required to supply the homeowner with the reason for denial. While denial on the basis of restrictions that are outlined in the policy is acceptable, homeowner’s insurance companies may also deny claims on the basis that home owners did not take necessary precautions to prevent damage. One example of this is having an outdoor water pipe burst following a winter storm when water was not shut off as a precaution. Homeowner’s insurance companies may also deny claims due to homeowner error during the filing process.
Handling Denied Claims
If a storm damage claim was denied by a homeowner’s insurance company and the reason does not satisfy the home owner, an attorney that specializes in unfair insurance claim denials may be able to help. While homeowners are entitled to file an appeal following a denied claim, insurance companies often will not overturn a decision unless pressured to do so by the presence of a knowledgeable attorney. If the claim is denied due to a provision that is not clearly expressed in the policy, the insurance company is obligated to honor the claim. If an insurance company failed to warn a home owner that common storm risks are not covered under the standard homeowner’s insurance policy, the insurance company may be required to cover the damages. If it is determined that the insurance company was intentionally misleading, the insurance company may also face legal penalties.
“Common Types of Storms.” Types of Storms. The National Storm Damage Center, n.d. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://stormdamagecenter.org/common-storm-types.html>
“Storm Damage FAQs.” The Maryland People’s Law Library. Maryland State Law Library, 1 Jan. 2013. Web. 2 June 2014. <http://www.peoples-law.org/node/2998>