A storm rolled through Dallas last Thursday with straight line winds between 75 and 90 miles an hour. The rain fell sideways and the wind snapped tree limbs, toppled trees, and knocked out power to 300,000 homes and businesses. 85,000 homes and businesses were still without power as of late Saturday.
Friday brought the sound of chain saws as fallen trees were cut up and power crews from across Texas and surrounding states worked to restore power. Calls flowed in to insurance companies and claim adjusters began to assess damage and issue checks to policy holders.
I usually receive calls from clients who wonder what damage is covered and whether or not they should file a claim. Based on the type of damage a storm like this causes, I thought it important to review what many home insurance policies cover and how to best document a claim.
Fallen Trees & Limbs: Most home insurance policies contain some coverage for tree removal. This applies whether the fallen tree hits something such as a home, fence, electrical lines, etc. or not. Before removing the tree, take pictures of it and anything it may have struck to document it for the claim and keep receipts for its removal.
If the tree fell on your home, a fence, or across power lines, take pictures of anything it landed on. These important to document the claim and help obtain payment for any repairs done prior to a claim adjustor arriving at your home.
Did one of your tree’s fall on a neighbor’s home? Your policy will pay for the tree removal of the portion of the tree on your property, but anything on their property, including damage to their home or other structures, will be covered by their insurance policy.
Examine all large trees on your property for damaged and cracked limbs. Have a professional tree service remove them as soon as possible to prevent them from damaging your or your neighbor’s home. Failure to do so, could lead to a negligence claim against your policy if the damaged tree or its limbs fall on your neighbor’s home due to no action being taken.
Home Roofs: Once you’ve taken pictures of any limbs on the roof, remove them if you’re able to do so safely. Large limbs may require the assistance of a licensed tree removal service. Once the tree is removed, have a professional, local roofing company examine the roof for damage such as torn or missing shingles and punctures to the decking underneath the shingles. If rain threatens, cover with plastic to prevent water from entering your home.
Even if no limbs fell on your roof, examine it for wind damage. Straight line winds can lift and curl shingles, as well as, strip them from a roof. If you experienced this, have a local roofer examine the roof and obtain an estimate for repairs. In many cases, the roof may not be replaced as it would from a major hail storm, but simply need to be repaired.
Downed Power Lines: Most home insurance policies will only pay for damages done to the home, whether interior or exterior. In the case of a downed power line, have a licensed electrician examine the lines from the point they enter your home up to the electrical panel. Your policy covers damaged wiring and panels, but not the replacement of the power line from the pole to the home. Unfortunately, this is something you’ll pay for out of your pocket.
Food Spoilage: Many policies have some coverage for food that becomes spoiled due to a power outage. Keep a list of all the food you had to throw away from your refrigerator or freezer due to lack of power and its value. This should be included with any other claim you file.
How did last week’s storm affect you? Share your experience, comments, and any questions you may have in the comments section of our blog or on our Google + and Facebook pages. I’d love to hear from you!