Sunday, May 29, 2011

Wind Damage - How To Handle The Wind and Wind Related Claims

It seems that Colorado, and especially Colorado Springs, is trying to steal the title of "Windy City" away from Chicago. I can't recall a longer period of continuous high winds since I moved here 30 years ago.

So what do you need to know if you find your home being blown over and you have to deal with wind damage and a wind claim?

The first, and most important, thing to know is that wind damage is a covered loss under almost every home policy you can buy and is covered under your car insurance if you have optional "comprehensive" coverage. This blog has to do with wind damage and your home. If the wind lifts up a few shingles or tears off your entire roof, you're covered. If it blows out your windows or blows over a tree, you're covered. There are, however, some things to consider and know about when it comes to wind  and wind damage claims.

First, Protect Your Family and Your Home: If high winds or a tornado damage your home, first get your family to a safe location. Contact your insurance company as soon as you are able. If it is safe to make temporary repairs, go ahead and do so to prevent more damage.

Homeowners should consider strengthening their homes in order to protect them, their belongings and everyone inside. Coastal communities have been adopting stronger building codes calling for walls to be anchored to foundations and using straps to connect roofs to exterior walls. Both measures will help homes stand up against high winds, regardless of where the home is located.Keep branches trimmed and yards clear of debris which can blow against your walls and windows, causing damage. Having a current home inventory will help in the event that your home is severely damaged by a storm.

Second, Assess the Damage: If the damage to your home seems minimal, you may want to consider getting an estimate for repairs before you file a claim. Fixing a few shingles may fall under your home deductible and help you avoid filing a claim.

Although wind is a covered loss, you should always save your claims for large, catastrophic events whenever possible. Too many claims on your home insurance could result in increased rates or even losing your home insurance coverage. If it is within your financial means to fix the damage yourself, it should definitely be considered. Talk to your local, professional agent about each individual claim to get an opinion on if it should be filed with your insurance company. If you do file a claim, keep in mind that many policies have a separate, increased deductible for wind damage.

Wind and Hail Deductibles: Many companies are moving to a separate deductible for wind or hail damage that is often higher than your deductible for all other types of damage. It is not uncommon to have a 1% deductible for wind damage, which means if your home is insured for $200,000, you would pay 1%, or $2,000, as your deductible.

There's a Tree on my Roof! High winds often lead to snapped and blown over trees that can end up on top of your home. There are a few important things to know when it comes to damage form falling trees:
  1. It does not matter where the tree came from, it is you or your home insurance that is responsible for the cleanup and any resulting damage. If your neighbor's tree is blown over it is still your responsibility to pay for damage from their tree that is now parked on your roof. This may sound unfair, but unless the owner of the tree can be shown to be negligent, it is not their fault that the wind picked their tree to blow over and therefor not their responsibility to pay for the damages.
  2. No damage to property = no coverage for clean up. Trees that fall over and land in your yard, without damaging property, are your responsibility to clean up. Remember, your insurance company isn't protecting your land, they are protecting your home and belongings so if you've just got a tree on your land with no structure damage there is typically no coverage under your home insurance policy.
  3. Replacing the tree: Most insurance policies have very limited coverage to replace trees, grass, flowers and bushes. Landscaping is all a part of your land and not a part of your structure so the rules from number two roll into point number 3. You can usually get a small amount back, around $500 on most policies, to pay for the planting of trees or other damaged landscaping but that's about it.
If You Need to File a Claim, Do It Sooner Than Later: It is important to prevent further damage to your property so the sooner you can get a claim filed an adjuster out to your home to inspect the damage and okay repair work, the better. Wind damage today can easily lead to water damage tomorrow and really increase the amount of repairs that have to be made to both your home and your belongings. Water can blow in the cracks or leaks can happen in your roof if your shingles are missing or damaged. If you can take minor steps to prevent further damage, you should but don't do anything to put yourself or your property in danger. Caulk your windows and inspect for anywhere you might have water leaking into your home.

There's a Hole in my Roof, Where Should I Stay? The "Additional Living Expense" portion of your home insurance policy should cover any costs associated with a hotel or other living arrangements if you cannot stay in your home due to a covered loss. If a tree came through the roof, the definitely counts as a covered loss under almost all policies. You just need to work with your insurance company to be reimbursed for any extra costs

Although dealing with home damage and insurance claims are never a fun process, take heart in knowing that your insurance company really is there to help get your home and belongings repaired and get your life back to normal as soon as possible. If you have specific questions regarding your home and your policy, consult your local agent.

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