Severe weather that hit the state this weekend will undoubtedly result in many residents filing insurance claims. Tornadoes and wind damage is generally covered by homeowners insurance policies. However, flooding is not covered by a regular homeowners policy, but can be purchased through the National Insurance Flood Program.
It is important that the claim process be approached in a knowledgeable and organized manner, according to a representative from the insurance industry. (See general insurance coverage questions attached to this news release).
“Residents affected by the storm want to know their insurance company is responding to their claim,” Pete Kuhnmuench, Executive Director of the Insurance Institute of Michigan (IIM), said. “If the policyholder is informed and organized, the process will move along more quickly.”
If you have a claim, report it to your insurance agent or call your insurance company's claims telephone number. After alerting your insurance representative of a claim, take necessary steps to prevent further damage. Make sure to cover holes in the roof, walls, doors and windows with plastic or boards. Be careful not to risk your own safety in making the repairs, however. Also, it is important to keep an accurate list of supplies purchased for emergency repair.
The policyholder can help by making a room-by-room inventory of damaged property. Important information is needed to accurately determine the value of the damaged or destroyed property, according to Kuhnmuench. For each damaged item, include brand name, model number, age, purchase price, place of purchase and the estimated cost to replace. The Insurance Institute of Michigan has free home inventory software available on its website, www.iiminfo.org.
Also, keep all receipts. If you have to stay at a hotel, your policy may provide reimbursement for lodging and meals.
Use reputable companies for all repairs. Ask the contractor to thoroughly identify the work to be performed and provide a written estimate, including the proposed cost. Also, ask for a warranty on the work.
If you have questions about your coverage or a specific loss, call your insurance agent. However, if consumers have general insurance questions or need help resolving a problem with an insurance company, they can call the Michigan Insurance Information Hotline at 1-800-777-8005. The toll-free service is operated 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. Insurance consultants provide consumers with quick access to information on all types of insurance or provide assistance when they have a problem with their own insurance company.
IIM is a government affairs and public information association represents property/casualty insurance companies that provide insurance to 74 percent of the automobile and 66 percent of the homeowners markets in Michigan. For more information about insurance, contact the Insurance Information Hotline, toll-free, at 1-800-777-8005 Monday through Friday, 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. or visit the website at www.iiminfo.org.
Storm Damage Coverage Question and Answers:
How can I prevent water damage?
- Never store perishables or valuables in basements that you can't afford to lose or replace (i.e. photos, clothing, electronics, collectibles, etc.)
- Do not store items near basement drains.
- Check storm drain lines to make sure they're clear of debris, roots, etc.
- Make sure your sump pump and/or dehumidifier are in working order.
- Use shelving to store items several inches above the potential water level.
- Make sure your home's downspouts are extended far enough away from the foundation to prevent water from entering your basement through the walls.
- Grade the property around your home to drain water away from it.
- If you have water seepage following storms, take corrective measures to alleviate future problems. For instance, install a sump pump or have a waterproofing expert take a look at your situation to see what can be done to eliminate the potential of major water damage losses. Most basement waterproofing companies offer guarantees. Also be sure to tell your insurer when such improvements have been made.
Are tornadoes covered under my homeowners policy?
Damages caused by high winds, tornadoes and hail are covered by homeowners, renters and commercial insurance policies.
Do I have coverage for flooding?
Flood coverage is excluded from homeowners and renters insurance policies, however, this protection is available through the purchase of a flood insurance policy. Check with your insurance agent or company representative for details. Many licensed agents offer flood insurance. If you're having trouble finding flood insurance, call the National Flood Insurance Program's agent referral program at 1-888-CALL FLOOD. Also, visit www.floodsmart.gov to assess your flood risk, get an estimated cost for flood insurance coverage, or browse through a list of insurance agents writing flood insurance coverage in your locale.
Is there coverage for water backup?
Coverage for sewer drain back up is available through many insurance companies as an endorsement to your current homeowners or renters policy. Coverage limitations vary by company, so it's important to understand how and where it applies. Some insurers offer coverage up to the limits of the policy, while other insurers limit the coverage to a specified amount such as $5,000 or $10,000. Other variations include full coverage for sump pump failure to other insurers specifying what items will be covered in the event of such a claim.
Does my policy provide coverage for debris removal?
Typically, the cost associated with removing a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to a specific dollar amount under the following circumstances:
- The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the peril of weight of ice, snow or sleet or a neighbor's tree was downed under the same circumstances, and
- The tree damaged a covered structure such as the roof, garage or shed, or
- The fallen tree has not damaged covered property but blocks the insured's driveway or handicap access ways.
Is there coverage for my trees and shrubs?
Trees, shrubs, plants or lawn are NOT covered from damage caused by wind or hail. Such damages are covered from the perils of fire, lightning, explosion, riot or civil commotion, aircraft, nonowned vehicles, vandalism, malicious mischief or theft. The limit is 5% of the dwelling amount, but no more than $500 for any one tree, shrub or plant. If lightning strikes a tree and falls on your home, homeowners coverage applies as noted.
Is hail damage to my vehicle covered?
Vehicles pot-marked by hail or damaged by flooding are generally covered under the "other-than-collision" (also known as "comprehensive") portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision. It is recommended that if severe weather threatens, vehicles should be moved under cover to prevent damage from high winds, flying debris and hail. Deductibles apply.
I had to make some repairs to prevent further damage to my home. Can I get reimbursed?
Costs incurred from taking measures to protect against further damage (such as placing plastic over a damaged roof, covering windows to prevent further rain damage, etc.) are likely reimbursable under your homeowners policy. Make sure to save the receipts.