After Sandy: Insurance & Downed Trees

Sandy has left many of us dealing with water and tree damage to our homes, yards or cars. Here is a breakdown of what is (and what isn’t) covered by your insurance plan.

Flooding in your home or basement? Your homeowners insurance does NOT cover flood damage due to an accumulation of water on the ground that seeps into your basement. However, it WILL cover hard rain that comes down and seeps into window and damages the wall or carpet.

The easy way to remember the difference: If water comes from the ground up, you must have a separate flood insurance policy. If it comes from the sky (or top down), homeowners insurance will cover the damage. If you didn’t have flood insurance before Sandy, you won’t get flood help for this storm. There is a 30-day waiting period after you apply for flood coverage.

If you have heard of a hurricane deductible, it’s something you’ll likely find it in your homeowners policy. It was created after increased coastal development and greater hurricane risks, and forces the policyholder to share more of the risk with the insurer.

Unlike a standard homeowner's insurance policy deductible (usually $500 or $1,000), hurricane deductibles are calculated as a percentage of the insured value of a house. This value typically varies from one to five percent, so you could be paying thousands of dollars before your hurricane coverage kicks in.

When it comes to tree damage, it all depends on where the tree falls. If a tree in your yard falls on your neighbor's house, your neighbor's homeowners insurance will cover the damage. If your neighbor's tree falls on your house, your homeowners insurance will cover the damage. If a tree falls on your car, your comprehensive auto insurance covers the damage. Lastly, if a tree falls on your property (but does not hit or damage anything), you pay out of pocket to have it removed.

Here’s our advice for filing claim: For starters, contact your insurance agent right away. Make a list of what is damaged.

Then, document the damage by taking pictures or video if that’s safe to do. Photos may speed up the claims process. If possible, make simple, cheap, temporary repairs and remember to keep your receipts so your insurance company can reimburse you.

If you have any additional questions or want to file a complaint against your insurance company, contact your state's Department of Insurance. Here are the links for Maryland, Virginia and D.C.

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