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Insurance Commission: Dealing with Winter Weather Damage
Pennsylvania Ag Connection - 03/17/2017

Insurance Commissioner Teresa Miller offered tips to consumers whose home or automobile may have sustained damage from this week's winter storm.

"Most standard homeowners' insurance policies should cover typical winter storm damage to homes, such as a collapse caused by the weight of ice or snow, or water damage caused by burst pipes or ice jams in gutters and downspouts, which prevent proper drainage of water," Commissioner Miller said.

Homeowners' policies should also cover damage from fallen trees or tree limbs. However, consumers should check with their insurer before removing fallen trees to see if this cost is covered. Making permanent repairs before consulting with an adjuster could result in the denial of a claim, so property owners should only make temporary repairs to their home until a claims adjuster from their insurer views the damage.

Commissioner Miller also recommended homeowners check with their insurer about whether other types of damage are covered, such as spoiled food resulting from a power outage, debris cleanup, repairs to broken or frozen pipes themselves, and furnace damage.

Winter driving can be hazardous. Auto insurance pays for damage a vehicle causes to someone else's property due to ice, snow, or slippery roads. This includes damage to structures such as lamp posts, telephone poles, fences, or buildings a vehicle may hit.

In addition, damage to a vehicle resulting from colliding with another vehicle, object, or pothole is covered if the policy includes collision coverage. Comprehensive coverage pays for damage to a vehicle caused by circumstances such as heavy wind, flooding, and falling ice or tree limbs.

Drivers should always make sure to clear ice and snow from windshields, rear windows, side windows, and head and tail lights before driving.

"Contact your insurance company as soon as possible if you have a car accident, or your home is damaged by winter weather conditions," Commissioner Miller said. "Follow the instructions given by your insurer, keep a record of the people you spoke with, and always ask questions if you don't understand any instruction from your insurer."

Commissioner Miller recommended taking pictures of home, property, or auto damage to document to your insurance company.

Any consumer who has a claim denied should review the terms of his or her policy. Consumers may also file appeals with their insurer's claims manager.

Consumers who have questions may also contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau, by calling 1-877-881-6388, or online at www.insurance.pa.gov, by clicking on "Ask a Question or File a Complaint", under Top Pages.

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