Winter weather can wreak havoc with your home, business, vehicles, and other property, causing billions of dollars in insured and uninsured losses nationwide each year. Think burst pipes, slippery sidewalks, roof cave-ins, and vehicle damage due to fallen tree limbs and slick roads.
With several recent winter weather events in Virginia already and the possibility for others during this winter season, the time to prepare is now. The State Corporation Commission’s (SCC) Bureau of Insurance (Bureau) encourages Virginians to review their insurance coverage and prepare their homes and vehicles before harsh winter conditions return. It is important to know the extent of your insurance coverage, as well as any deductibles you may have to pay in the event of a claim.
Accumulation of too much snow or ice can result in tree limbs breaking and falling on homes, vehicles and power lines. Falling limbs also can result in collapsed roofs and other damage to homes, structures and vehicles. Melting snow and ice can cause flooding of property and interior damage to structures even after a winter storm ends. Sub-freezing temperatures can lead to broken pipes both inside and outside your home.
“Plan ahead for seasonal and other hazards,” said Virginia Insurance Commissioner Scott A. White. “Homeowners, renters and commercial property policies can protect you against many types of winter weather threats, but there are exceptions. Contact your insurance agent or company or the SCC’s Bureau of Insurance to learn more.”
To help reduce the risk of damage to your home and property this winter, the Bureau suggests the following:
- Remove dead, dying, diseased or broken tree limbs near your home and property.
- Remove debris from your gutters to help prevent ice dams and allow melting water to drain freely away from your home.
- Inspect your attic insulation and ventilation to ensure warm air stays in the living areas of your home and out of the attic. Keeping attic air cold can help minimize the freeze/thaw cycle that causes ice dams, which may cause interior water damage to your home. Proper insulation of your home has the added advantage of helping save energy and may reduce your heating costs.
- Protect your pipes from freezing. Detach garden hoses from your home before the temperature drops below freezing and properly winterize pipes and irrigation systems around your home. To protect interior pipes, leave your faucet running slightly to allow water to trickle through the pipes, reducing the chance that standing water will freeze. Opening the cabinet doors under your sink allows warm air to circulate around your pipes and to help keep them from freezing.
- Make sure fireplaces, wood stoves and electric heaters work properly. Additionally, keep combustible items away from heat sources.
Standard homeowners, renters and commercial property insurance policies provide coverage for damage to property caused by wind, snow, severe cold and freezing rain. Property damage caused by flooding typically is not covered, but separate flood insurance is available through the National Flood Insurance Program at floodsmart.gov and may be available through your insurance carrier.
If your home or property suffers damage due to severe winter weather, contact your insurance agent or company as soon as possible. Make any necessary emergency repairs and take reasonable steps to prevent further damage. Record all damage to your property and include photographs, notes and repair-related receipts.
Homeowners insurance also may cover certain incidents where someone slips and falls on slick sidewalks or other surfaces on your property. You can check for this coverage under the liability and medical payments portions of your homeowners insurance policy.
If you are involved in an auto accident between two or more vehicles attributed to snowy and slippery road conditions, or if your vehicle crashes into an object affixed along a roadway (such as a streetlight) due to those conditions, collision coverage is available under standard auto insurance policies. Also
check to see whether your auto insurance covers damage to your vehicle caused by ice, snow and falling tree limbs. These types of damages usually are covered by other-than-collision (or comprehensive) coverage on your vehicle, which protects against damage to a vehicle from such things as fire, water, hail, vandalism, glass breakage, wind and falling objects.
For answers to your insurance questions, contact the Bureau’s Property and Casualty Consumer Services Section toll-free at 1-877-310-6560.