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Monday, December 23, 2013
OKLAHOMA CITY - Mother Nature delivered a significant ice storm just in time for the holidays and the Oklahoma Insurance Department (OID) is warning residents to not take the weight of ice, snow or sleet lightly.
“Oklahoma is no stranger to extreme weather,” said Oklahoma Insurance Commissioner John D. Doak. “We have witnessed the damage thick layers of ice can cause.”
The weight of ice could potentially damage roofs, causing stress cracks in shingles and siding. In many cases, attic support beams could also be broken, resulting in costly damage.
“The weight of ice and snow is covered in most policies, but it has to be listed that way,” said Doak. “If you read your policy for covered perils and you do not see it mentioned, it is not covered.”
Falling ice and tree branches can also pose a problem. Watch for branches that could break or fall due to the weight of the ice. Also, the weight of the ice may have weakened branches, making them a danger when strong winds hit them.
Am I Covered?
Property damage caused by fallen trees can be the most misunderstood coverage in a homeowners insurance policy. If you carry homeowners insurance, you will be covered for damage to a structure and its contents from fallen trees and branches. The cost to remove the tree or limb is also covered by the insurer. Additionally, your homeowners policy will cover damages when the tree is on someone else’s property and has caused damage to your structure or property. An example of this would be if a tree limb is stretching across your property and falls due to wind, lightning or hail, causing damage to a structure such as the house, garage or fence. In other words, it is the responsibility of the owner on whose property the tree limb fell to contact their homeowners insurance provider.
In most cases, the homeowner who sustained the damage files an insurance claim. However, if your neighbor knew that their tree was a safety concern and nothing was done, your neighbor could be considered negligent. This could be true if the tree was in poor health or not properly maintained. The policyholder’s insurance company may try to collect from the neighbor’s insurance company in a process known as subrogation. If the insurer is successful, you may be reimbursed for the deductible.
Always remember that safety is first. If you have sustained damage, safely protect your property from additional damage and take photos of the damage. Keep receipts of any necessary purchases, such as supplies for emergency repairs.
Knowing the inclusions and limitations of your homeowners policy can seem tough to navigate, but it always helps to check with your insurer anytime you sustain damages to check on what is and isn’t covered.
Most vehicle damage caused by falling ice is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of your auto insurance policy.
It is important to contact your insurance agent for questions you may have about your coverage.
For more information or help with other insurance questions, please contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department’s Consumer Assistance Team at 1-800-522-0071.
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