When hell freezes over.

Number 1:  If you drive a plow, work as a lineman (person), in the snow removal, tree care business, water mitigation business, or any other service/restoration industry that has been working hard to take care of people during storms- THANK YOU.  You work long hours away from your families, in conditions that most people would never, even work in, to do a job that will never make a segment of people who are very vocal about their unhappiness for the quality of work you are doing.   

If you are reading this and want to show your appreciation (especially to snow plow drivers and first responders)-  stay off the roads when there are winter storms unless you absolutely cannot work from home and are required to be at your job, are in need of medical assistance or food, or are taking care of the sick or elderly.  There are not many other reasons that people should be on the roads or in parking lots playing frogger with plows and slowing down emergency vehicles.

Now on to some insurance thoughts / suggestions

If you own a home:

If a tree / tree limb falls onto your property (your house, shed, fence, etc)- it is your problem.  Even if the tree was not yours.  This is one of the most asked insurance questions year-round and it is a highly contentious one.  The one exception to this rule is if you can prove that the tree owner was negligent; but this takes proof that you have already contact him/her via writing and documented the dead tree ahead of time letting him/her know that it probably should be taken care of.

Either way-  in the meantime-  you are going to need to clean up the tree; which depending on how much damage it is- may require you to call someone and pay for help.

In most cases your insurance policy is only going to be an acceptable solution if the tree falling was severe enough to actually damage your home- and I mean damage your home.  Not just one itty bitty speck on the siding or a dented gutter.  Those are not going to be worth your deductible and sure won’t be worth having a claim on your record- which will all but make you ineligible to move insurance companies for the next five years.

If you have a gaping hole in your roof/window- you should be filing a claim with your insurance company right away- and getting a roofer/contractor to come and help you at least do emergency tarping – because your insurance policy requires you to at least try to (safely- don’t go climbing on your roof- especially in winter!) stop further damage.

Lastly- with regards to trees:  insurance companies don’t like ‘em.  When you buy from a new insurance company, they will usually do a walk around your house and tree limbs overhanging your roof is one of the top 3 things that they look for and will list for you to remediate if you want that policy, so as proper home maintenance- make sure you are keeping up with trimming those unwieldly branches.

If you have weak branches, now the heavy snow has stressed them out- which means the spring storms are going to be that much harder on them- making them even more likely to snap.

Power Outages

With the tree limbs falling all over the place- power lines are coming down too!

While your insurance policy “may” have some insurance coverage for this- if you are a homeowner- it wouldn’t be worth paying your deductible first (this is really meant as sort of a kicker to help you if you have a major catastrophic loss, like a kitchen fire).  Potentially if you have renters insurance and you have a half of a cow in a deep freeze and you just stocked up pre-storm and had a low deductible; but at that rate- just put your cold/frozen items in the snow and save yourself the trouble of having to go through a claim and provide receipts.

The biggest insurance related concerns relating to power outages relate to supplemental heating (ie. Making sure you use good common sense when it comes to wood burners and fire places) and frozen pipes.

Frozen Pipes

I will tell you that a frozen pipe claim is one of the top 2 worst claims I have ever dealt with.  I am going to imagine it is in the top 3 ever (because knock on wood, I haven’t had a tornado claim yet).

Trust me when I say that you do not want to deal with this.

The problem won’t be when the pipe is frozen- it’s going to be when the water thaws.

Standard homeowners insurance policies cover damage caused by snow and ice.

Here are some suggestions on preventing your pipes from freezing.  Depending on how cold it gets- you may want to implement at least some of these even if you don’t lose power!

  • Cover up the spigot that you attach your outside hose to.  You can find many tutorials on YouTube or TikTok for doing this, and the home improvement/hardware stores sell gadgets you can use (or DIY it). 
  • You can insulate your pipes- especially if you have an older house or if you have pipes running along outside walls (ie. Kitchen sinks are common).  Even wrapping them with a blanket as a makeshift insulation will help in a pinch.
  • Open your cabinets to help the airflow to the pipes- again, especially the ones that run along exterior walls.
  • Turn up the heat in your house before the power goes out.  That way if the power does go out- it has further to fall.  Cover up the windows.  Put towels under the doors to make sure to seal any leaks.  If you need to- close the vents/registers to any extra rooms that you don’t need.
  • Use a hairdryer (provided you have electricity) if it has gotten really cold and you think they may be in danger.
  • DO NOT use a blowtorch or any kind of flame thrower. 
  • When it’s very cold, let cold water drip from the faucet.

It’s a good idea to learn where your water shut off valve is located so you can minimize damage if your pipes freeze, despite your best efforts

If you DO have a pipe that bursts

You likely need to file a claim.  Water mitigation is something that is best left to the pros, so avoid hiring temporary labor if you can help it. 

If you have taken preventative measures and the house was not vacant (or if you have gone on vacation but left the house heated when you left)- a burst pipe is almost certainly covered by your home insurance policy (up to your policy limits, of course).

You’ll need a contractor that pulls permits, fixes according to building codes, pays his/her taxes, and has business insurance for the claim to be paid out.  This isn’t something that you want Dan in a van with a fan messing up.  (No offense Dan…)

Slips and Falls

Speaking of people coming to your rescue…  even if it is the Amazon delivery driver- can they safely get to your door?  Have you salted?

Part of your homeowners insurance (and renters insurance) is a neat little bundle of money set aside for liability – which is in case you are found to be “at fault” for something.

Like if you are the person who got that letter from your neighbor about the dead tree.

And ignored it.  And they can prove it.

And it put a hole through their house.

Which means it is coming out of your pocket- unless you bumped up your liability coverage to a limit that is enough to fix their damage.

Or- if someone slips and falls in your driveway or on the sidewalk that the city requires you to maintain. 

Or if you DO hire Dan in a van with a fan– who does not actually have a legit business- and does not have business insurance- and he trips and drowns in the three inches of water on your floor.  Hey… it COULD happen.

The point is- you can definitely take some measures to avoid most of the risk in this department too.

Bottom line:

Things happen.

Just like mother nature saw someone doing the snow dance and said “This is your lucky day”.

And that is why you buy insurance.

That is why you (happily) pay your $1,000 / year (or whatever) for homeowners insurance – so that the policy will actually pay potentially $500,000 (or whatever) if you need it too. 

That’s why every year- or every month- you shell out money to pay for a contract that will save your butt big time if you have a catastrophic loss.

Statistically, you could be the 1 in 20 people this year who will need to use your insurance contract – asking it to pay out 100, 200, 300 times what you have paid in and what you will likely never be able to pay back- and that’s why having a review with an insurance agent that you trust is important- so that you know that you haven’t missed an opportunity to add a $5 / year coverage for something that will pay out $50K if it most definitely applies to your situation.

But- being in the 95% club is going to be the better route.  I promise you.

We would rather sell you a policy and only talk to you when you remodel your kitchen or update your cars.

So take care and protect yourself.

If you would like a comprehensive insurance review- we are here to wield our Sage Wisdom.

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