Avoid Insurance Claims for Winter Damage

Protect your home against the three most costly insurance claims: frozen pipes, hail damage and tree collapses.

By Gene and Katie Hamilton

When an insurance company suggests how to prevent costly damage to your home from the ravages of winter weather it’s a good idea to listen. The Hartford has analyzed winter claims data from the past five years and surveyed nearly 200 claims adjusters to collect some really timely tips and trends to watch out for this winter. "We know winter weather can create challenges for homeowners," said John Kinney, chief claim officer for The Hartford. "Our goal is to help people prepare for unexpected weather, protect what’s important to them and prevail over the season."

Advance preparation can go a long way toward helping you ensure your home is prepared and protected in advance. And take the time to understand their insurance coverage you have so re-read the policy, or ask questions of your agent.

The three most costly claims are frozen pipes, hail damage and tree collapses.

Frozen Pipes

One of the most common and costliest cold weather claims is frozen pipes. While most common in the Northeast and Midwest, frozen pipes happen in all areas of the country and average about $18,000 per claim. The Hartford’s adjusters recommend learning where the water shut-off is before faced with a frozen pipe or water leak.

Hail Damage

Hail damage is another common and costly winter weather claim, especially in the South where it is three times more common than in other areas. Roof damage from hail is more likely at the end of winter and can lead to claims that average $10,000. Claims for hail damage are often filed late because the damage isn’t always easy to see. After large hail storm, a homeowner may want to consider hiring a professional to examine the roof if they’re not able to safely inspect it. Filing an insurance claim as soon as damage is noticed allows the insurance company to start working with the homeowner sooner to minimize the damage.

Tree Collapses

Wind damage and tree collapses are another common and costly winter weather claim. Trees in the West are generally larger than other parts of the country and claims in this area average more than $10,000. By comparison, tree collapse claims range on average from $3,000 to $5,000 in the Northeast, Midwest and South. The Hartford recommends regularly assessing the trees and other vegetation on the property. Weakened tree limbs can easily come down in windy weather so the adjusters suggest maintaining and trimming trees near the home that could fall on the house, other buildings or vehicles during a storm.

Be Pro Active

Seasonal maintenance is critical:. Have the heating system serviced on an annual basis, which includes testing to make sure the heat is working throughout the home. It’s also important to insulate any pipes that are susceptible to freezing and unhook hoses from outdoor faucets.

Be prepared: Move vehicles off the street and/or away from large tree limbs and having the snow blower serviced. Become familiar with how to trip the manual release on overhead garage door openers and having shovels ready ahead of the storm.

Keep supplies on hand: Be ready for an extended power outage and have bottled water and non-perishable foods, clothing and blankets, batteries and flashlights. Don't forget a snow shovel and supply of rock salt or sand.

Don't Make These Common Mistakes

Despite the best laid plans, it may be necessary to file an insurance claim after winter storm damage. The Hartford’s adjusters indicated the most common claim filing mistakes made by homeowners are: not trying to mitigate or limit damage while waiting for an adjuster to arrive, waiting to file a claim and throwing away items without taking an inventory or capturing documentation.

Related Articles:

Preventing Ice Dams

Winter Landscaping Tips

Prevent Thunderstorm Damage

Cost to Repair Frozen Pipes

For more tips from The Hartford’s claims experts, visit www.thehartford.com/home-insurance/winter-storms.

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