Thursday, January 19, 2012

Tips on winter storm-related insurance claims

As this week's snowstorm turns into an ice storm, we figured that it would be a good time for a Q&A re: winter storms and insurance claims. For more, please see our winter weather page.

My neighbor’s tree fell on my house. Who pays?
Usually your insurance, even if it was the neighbor's tree. And you’ll be responsible for the deductible.
Sometimes your insurer can prove the neighbor was at fault (diseased tree, etc.) and make their insurer pay. But that can be hard to prove.
If possible, take steps to prevent further damage. For example, you might try to cover holes in walls or the roof, but only if it's safe to do so. Beware of snow, ice, and falling limbs.
And save your receipts: Your insurer may reimburse you for those costs.

A tree fell on my car or carport. Am I covered?
Car: Yes, if you have comprehensive coverage.
Carport: Yes, usually your homeowners coverage will usually cover the damage. But unattached buildings – like a garden shed – are often not covered.

Lots of limbs fell in my yard. Will an insurance company pay for cleanup?
Usually not. Homeowners insurance is mainly for the home.

Lost power and freezer thawed. Am I covered?
Most homeowners policies cover this, but it may not be worth filing a claim, esp. if you have a high deductible.

I’m concerned about flooding. Will I be covered?
Probably not. A standard homeowners insurance policy doesn't cover floods. You have to buy a separate policy, usually through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).

My television set was ruined when the power came back on. Am I covered?
Most homeowner policies do cover appliances ruined by power surges. But consider your deductible -- in many cases, it may be more than the cost of simply replacing the damaged equipment.

Tips on auto insurance claims

After this week's record-setting snowstorm, it seemed like a good time to post some tips on auto- and homeowners claims. We'll start with auto, and then put up a second post specifically about homeowners claims. For more, please see our auto claims web page.

Claims process
Get the name, contact info and insurance info of the other driver.
Get the names and contact info of anyone in the other car. We've seen fraud cases in which friends of a car's sole occupant claim that they were in the car, too, so they can file claims.
Call your agent or the company. They’ll walk you through the process.
That said, if it’s just your car and the damage is minor, you may want to just pay for repair yourself., especially if you have a high deductible.

In Washington state, you can generally choose which shop to take your car to, but the shop and the insurer must agree on price. If they can't agree, you may be stuck paying the difference.

Who pays
If you have collision coverage, the fastest thing may be to file a claim to your own insurer.
•      There’s often disagreement over who’s at fault. Unfortunately, these disputes fall outside our administrative authority. Work with the person processing the claim. In major disagreements, you may want to seek legal advice.
But if you’re confident that another person was at fault, you may want to wait for their insurance to pay. That way you won’t have a claim on your record
If the other person’s at fault, your insurer can also recover its costs from their insurer. This is called subrogation. If you file the claim against your insurer and they get the other driver's insurer to pay, you may get your deductible back.

Rental car?
If other person was at fault, their insurer will negotiate with you to pay for a rental car.
Or your policy might pay it for you.
Pay attention to the limitations, though: Rental car coverage is often limited to a short period of time. We often get complaints from people about this.

Diminished value
This is the difference in value between a repaired car and one that was never damaged. See if your policy covers this.
If you're making claim to other driver’s insurance, you need to prove that the value is diminished. This can be tough to do.

Our offices will remain closed today

Our Thurston County and Seattle locations will remain closed today due to the the road conditions as the yesterday's snowstorm became today's ice storm. Sorry for the inconvenience; we just want to keep our staff safe today. 

All online services are still available at our website at

We expect to be fully operational during regular business hours starting tomorrow morning. We'll let you know here. Be safe!