Report: Review insurance, prepare property and vehicles for winter

Staff report

Ohio Lieutenant Governor Mary Taylor is urging Ohioans to conduct an insurance review with their agent before severe winter weather arrives. Taylor also advises that people prepare their properties and vehicles to reduce the risk of damage.

Ohioans have recently endured rough winter weather in more ways than one. According to the Ohio Insurance Institute, a polar vortex with its glacial temperatures and destructive winds left Ohio with insured final loss estimates at $172.7 million in 2014. Then spanning one week the following winter; ice, snow, strong winds and bitter cold caused $39.98 million in preliminary insured losses.

“You can never be too prepared when it comes to minimizing the potential financial and property damage impact of severe weather,” said Taylor, also director of the Ohio Department of Insurance. “Schedule a seasonal insurance review with your agent and protect your possessions for winter.”

Understand Your Insurance

Review these insurance topics with your agent to ensure you have adequate coverage:

* Most standard property insurance generally covers structure and contents damage from ice, water, heavy snow and burst water pipes. Roof, gutter, siding and window damage is also generally covered as is leaking from interior walls and ceilings from seeping rain. Certain circumstances and deductibles will apply.

* Reasonable after-the-fact expenses are generally covered to predetermined time frames and amounts: fire department charges, additional living expenses, temporary repairs, debris removal, damaged tree and shrub removal, and personal property storage insurance.

* Food spoilage is normally not included if the cause of loss is an off-premises power outage (downed power lines, etc.) Coverage for frozen/refrigerated items due to loss of power would need to be purchased.

* If a tree falls on your home, garage or fence your policy will generally pay to repair damage to the structure and contents, as well as tree removal costs.

* Many policies have a separate deductible specific to wind/hail damage.

* Flood insurance coverage is not included in a standard property insurance policy and must be purchased separately. There is a 30-day waiting period before it begins.

* Coverage for sewer drain back up is not included – or is limited in a typical policy – and must be added.

* Vehicle damage caused by water-related events, ice, heavy snow and burst water pipes are normally covered under the “other-than-collision” (also known as “comprehensive”) portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that would need purchased.

Get Your Property and Vehicle Ready For Winter

To get your home ready for winter, a few basic steps should be taken. Start by cleaning out gutters and downspouts. Address missing shingles and broken, overhanging tree limbs. Inspect the underside of the roof from the attic for signs of leaks. Make sure you have adequate water pipe insulation to prevent winter freezes.

As for your vehicle, the tires should always have adequate tread and air pressure. Keep the windshield wiper fluid tank filled and maintain at least a half tank of gasoline. Get a windshield scraper and brush for ice and snow removal. Finally, carry a snack, water, extra warm attire, blankets and a first aid kit with you in your vehicle.

If You Need to File a Claim

For a property insurance claim:

* Call your agent or insurer as soon as possible.

* Inspect your property. Note and take photos/video of any damage.

* Protect your property – but only make temporary repairs – and salvage what you can. Keep receipts to provide your insurer.

* If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for “loss of use” coverage.

* Considering everything in your claim and back it up with written estimates.

* Keep copies of all correspondence.

If you are involved in a vehicle accident:

* Stay away from moving traffic.

* Call emergency personnel if necessary.

* Take photos/video of the damage and accident scene.

* Only share names, contact information and vehicle insurance information. Do not share personal information that would lead to identity theft.

* Get the contact information of those who saw the accident. Your insurer and police may want to speak to them later.

* If the accident is not serious, involved vehicles can be moved to the side of the road. Information can be exchanged and a police report filed later.

Staff report