Along with winter comes freezing temperatures, ice, snow and wind which can cause severe damage to homes and property, especially when they take you by surprise. Winter storms are the third-largest cause of catastrophe losses, behind only hurricanes and tornadoes.
Standard homeowners policies provide coverage for damage caused by wind, snow, severe cold and freezing rain. Car accidents caused by slippery road conditions are also covered under standard auto insurance policies.
The following information on insurance coverage for winter storms is offered by the Insurance Information Institute:
- Car 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 are covered under standard homeowners insurance policies. Wind-driven snow or freezing rain that gets into the home because it 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 trees inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500. Ice or 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.
- Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by the 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.
- Standard homeowners policies also include additional living expenses in the event that a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster. This would pay for reasonable expenses to live elsewhere while the home is being fixed.
If your property is damaged as a result of a winter storm, you should contact your insurance agent as soon as possible. You’ll need to make them aware of the extent of the damage and then start to document your losses with lists, receipts and/or photographs. Having a home inventory would be incredibly useful in this case. If you don't already have one, here are some tips on creating a home inventory list.