by the New York State Insurance Department
A snowplow operator accidentally hits your house while clearing the driveway. Ice and snow buildup on the roof leads to water damage inside your house. Ice-laden tree limbs fall and damage your roof.
What kinds of losses are covered under most homeowners' insurance policies? What should consumers consider to make sure that they are protected against property damage caused by harsh winter weather?
"Homeowners' insurance policies provide basic protection but some policies provide a greater range of coverage than others. Consumers should review their policies and consider adding coverage if necessary. They should also keep in mind that they may have to pay deductibles when filing claims," Insurance Superintendent James Wrynn said.
The New York State Insurance Department urges consumers to keep these points in mind when evaluating their insurance needs:
•Wind, snow and rain damage to the outside of a home is covered under standard homeowners' policies. Also covered is damage caused by the collapse of a structure due to the weight of snow.
•Damage to homes by falling objects, such as trees, is covered under most policies. However, the cost to remove fallen trees is usually not covered unless the tree first damages the home.
•Many policies exclude interior water damage unless the exterior sustains damage from a covered peril or not-excluded peril. So, there would be no coverage under these policies unless water got into the home as the result of such damage as missing shingles or tiles. However, consumers should keep in mind that some policies offer protection when interior damage is caused by wind-driven rain.
•Some policies cover damage caused by frozen pipes, provided that the damage is not a result of the homeowner's failure to maintain an adequate temperature in the home. Other policies specifically exclude such coverage.
•Many standard policies exclude coverage for water back up from drains or sewers. However, protection can generally be added to a policy by purchasing a rider.
•Damage to a home caused by snow plowing is generally covered by most homeowners' policies. The plowing service may also be liable for damages it causes to the home.
•Flood damage caused by snow and ice melt is almost universally excluded by homeowners' policies. However, coverage for flood-related damage can be obtained from policies available through the National Flood Insurance Program.
Consumers should contact their insurance agent, broker or company as soon as possible after property damage occurs. They should act to prevent further damage from occurring, but should not make permanent repairs until after an insurance company adjuster has inspected the property.
Assistance for winter storm-related insurance inquiries or complaints is available by contacting the Department's Consumer Services Bureau toll-free number at 1-800-342-3736 from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday. Information is also available on the Department's website, www.ins.state.ny.us.