N.Y. Commissioner Offers Consumer Tips on Winter Weather Hazards

January 20, 2006

Superintendent of Insurance Howard Mills recently released a list of important tips for New Yorkers in the event their insured residence or automobile is damaged due to severe winter weather.

“As winter gets into full swing, New York’s insurance consumers need to be aware of what is covered and what is not covered under their homeowners and automobile insurance policies,” Mills stated. The two key questions homeowners should ask themselves, and the answers, are as follows:

* What damage to your home is covered? Damage caused by wind, wind-driven rain, trees or other falling objects, as well as the collapse of a structure due to the weight of ice or snow, are all covered under most standard homeowners policies. The repair of pipes that are frozen as the result of extreme cold weather may not be covered if the damage is due to negligence, such as failing to maintain an adequate temperature in the house.

* What damage to your home is not covered? Many policies do not cover losses of any type incurred as the result of a flood, the costs associated with the removal of a fallen tree unless the tree lands on your home, food spoilage expenses created by an off-premises power outage, and water damage which results from backed-up drains or sewers. Some insurers offer endorsements (additional protection that may be purchased) for certain coverages not covered under the standard homeowner policy, so check with your agent or company to determine your needs.

Those involved in an automobile accident and planning to file a claim should:

* Obtain information such as the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and license numbers of all persons involved in the accident and all witnesses. Also, record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of the vehicles involved, the driver’s insurance information, apparent damage and injuries, and your version of what happened, especially when a police report hasn’t been filed.

* Call your insurance agent or insurance company with your policy number and other relevant information as soon as possible, although you have 30 days in which to report the accident. Be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company and ask your agent what documents, forms, and data you’ll need.

* Take notes each time you talk to 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 car rental if your car is not drivable and save any receipts and bills incurred for car rental, towing and storage expenses.

“The best protection is to be prepared,” Mills added. “I urge New York insurance consumers to know what their policies cover in the event that winter weather causes damage to their property or vehicle.”

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