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By Chuck Wells

Most people learned all about their home insurance policy back in 1991 when we had the last big ice storm. There are things which are covered, those which are not, and those which pay a certain amount of money. The best way to review some of these is to answer some common questions which came up this time around. Keep in mind that there are many different policies available out there and the following Q & A’s apply to the standard policy written.

Trees fell in my yard but did not hit anything. Will my home insurance pay for the clean-up?
A: No. The insurance company will only pay for clean-up of fallen trees if the trees hit your house or garage and the maximum they are obligated to pay is $500 if the trees do hit your buildings.

A tree in my yard fell and hit my neighbor’s garage. Whose insurance pays?
A: Your neighbor’s insurance will pay even though it was your tree.

Q: A tree fell on my car and damaged it. Does my home insurance pay for the damages?
A: No. Your car insurance pays if you have comprehensive coverage. If you don’t have comprehensive coverage, you are out of luck.

Q: My power went off so my sump pump would not work and my cellar flooded. Will I get paid for the damage to my carpeting, furniture, etc. down in the basement?
A: Only if you paid for extra coverage on your home insurance that covers backup of drains. Usually that limit is up to $2000 or $5,000 depending upon the policy. If you did not get that extra coverage, you may not get paid.

Q: All of the food in my refrigerator was spoiled with the power outage. Will I get paid?
A: After you satisfy your deductible, you may get paid some money depending on whether or not you just lost power or a tree fell on the wires and ripped them out of your house. If you just lost power, you may not be covered. And please don’t tell us all you had in the freezer was lobster tails and filet mignon.

Q: All the trees in my yard were destroyed by the ice. Can I collect for their value so I can get them replaced?
A: No. You can only collect for the value of trees if they are killed by fire, lightning, vandalism, and a few other instances, but not ice.

Q: I drove to Maryland to buy a generator so my insurance company wouldn’t have to pay so much on this ice storm. Can I collect for the cost of the generator, my mileage, my cigarettes, and my valuable time driving down there and back?
A: No. But good try. You are responsible for trying your best to keep further damage from occurring. Keep the generator for the next storm.

Q: Some low-life came onto my property and stole my new generator right under my nose. Will my home insurance pay for a new one?
A: Yes, after you sustain your deductible (usually $250). If you know the serial number of your new generator, check out ads in the pennysaver in a couple of weeks as it may be there for sale!

Q: I was out driving during the emergency looking at all the pretty ice. If I had an accident, would my car insurance company deny paying the claim because I wasn’t supposed to be out there?
A: No. Your car insurance would pay even if you are out when you were not supposed to be. However, if you got a ticket for being out there, your rates may go up. We may also request a mental exam.

Q: Some pipes in my cellar froze and burst. Is there any coverage?
A: Yes. The resulting water damage from the burst pipes should be covered.

The bottom line to all of this insurance stuff is that you need to be prepared and not assume your insurance company will pay for everything. Your home insurance policy is designed to cover you for the big fire that destroys everything you own.

If you know your cellar will flood when the sump pump quits, keep valuable things out of the basement or buy an extra pump and generator. Check with your agent to see if you can buy additional water back-up coverage for the future.

There are some things which, even if I knew they were going to happen tomorrow, I could not get covered in a policy for you. Check with your agent if you have any questions about your particular policy.

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