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Winter Weather: What to Do If Your Property Has Been Damaged

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Agency offers guidelines if damages occur as a result of inclement weather.

The National Weather Service predicted heavy periods of snow for the Washington, DC, area, with possible accumulations of two to three inches, followed by freezing rain. With these first winter storms in the metropolitan area, it is important to know what to do if your home is damaged or if you are involved in an automobile accident.

“It’s especially important for District residents to heed these precautions when it comes to protecting their property from the elements,” said Commissioner Thomas E. Hampton of the DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB). “It can be disheartening to be paying for insurance for several years, only to discover that you are not covered under certain circumstances.”

Following are some guidelines from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC), of which the DISB is a member, to help you deal with a property damage claim or automobile accident. 

What to Do If Damage Occurs to Your Home

  • Call your insurance company or agent with your policy number and other relevant information as soon as possible. Cooperate fully with the insurance company, and ask what documents, forms and data you will need.
  • Take photographs or video of the damage.
  • Make the repairs necessary to prevent further damage to your property (i.e., cover broken windows, leaking roofs and damaged walls). Do not have permanent repairs made until your insurance company has inspected the property and you have reached an agreement on the cost of repairs.
  • Save all receipts, including those from the temporary repairs covered by your insurance policy.
  • If your home is damaged to the extent that you cannot live there, ask your insurance company if you have coverage for additional living expenses incurred while repairs are being made. Save all receipts to document these costs.

What Damage to Your Home Is Covered?
Damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain, trees or other falling objects, and the collapse of a structure due to weight of ice or snow are all covered under most standard homeowners policies. Frozen pipes as the result of extreme cold might not be covered if the damage is due to negligence, such as failing to maintain an adequate temperature in the house when the ability to do so is there. Check your policy and call your insurance agent or company if you need clarification or have specific questions.

What Damage to Your Home Is Not Covered?
The following events are typically not covered by the standard homeowners insurance policy: Interior water damage from a storm, when there is no damage to the roof or walls of your home; damage as the result of a flood; removal of fallen trees (if the trees do not land on and damage your home); food spoilage due to a power outage; and water damage from backed-up drains or sewers. Some insurers offer endorsements (i.e., additional protection that may be purchased) for certain coverages not covered under the standard homeowner policy. Check with your agent or company to determine your needs.

What to Do if You Are in An Automobile Accident:

  • Call the police.
  • Obtain the following information: The names, addresses, telephone numbers and driver's license numbers of all persons involved in the accident, and any witnesses.
  • Record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of vehicles involved, apparent damages and injuries, and your version of what happened.
  • Call your insurance agent or company to report the incident as soon as possible. Ask your agent what documents, forms and data you will need.
  • Take notes each time you talk with your insurance company, agent, lawyers, police or others involved in the situation. Write down the dates, times, names and subjects you talked about, as well as any decisions or promises made.
  • Ask your insurance company if you have coverage for a rental vehicle if your car is not drivable. Save all receipts and bills, including those from renting a car or having your car towed and/or stowed.

Contact DISB at (202) 727-8000 or disb.dc.gov if you have a dispute with your insurer about the amount or terms of the claim settlement, or if you need further information. 

For more information about auto and home insurance options, and tips for choosing the coverage that is right for you and your family, go to insureUonline.org.