COLUMBUS - Cold, icy and snowy weather might be scenic, but it can cause all sorts of problems: ruptured water pipes, fallen trees and limbs, slick roads and walkways, and power outages leaving you shivering with spoiled food.
With another cold snap in the forecast, Lieutenant Governor and Department of Insurance Director Mary Taylor is asking Ohioans to take proactive measures to keep themselves and their property safe and, in conjunction with the Ohio Insurance Institute (OII), is providing general insurance coverage information for typical winter losses.
"During extreme weather events Ohioans should take the necessary steps to protect themselves, their families and their property," Taylor said. "I would encourage everyone to assemble emergency kits for their home and vehicle, and to check in frequently on neighbors most vulnerable to these severe conditions."
Most damage related to winter storms is covered by insurance, with the exception of flooding. Since insurance coverage can vary policy or company, Taylor and OII advise Ohioans to check their policies for specifics or contact their insurance company or agent.
• Ice dams and frozen pipes: Roofs and gutters can be affected by ice and snow accumulation, causing additional damage to interior walls, floors and belongings. Such losses are generally covered under homeowners insurance.
• Fallen trees and limbs: Typically, costs associated with removal of a fallen tree (or trees) is covered up to $1,000 ($500/tree) under the following circumstances: The tree was uprooted due to windstorm, hail, or the weight of ice, snow or sleet, or a neighbor's tree was downed under the same circumstances. The tree damaged a covered structure such as your roof, garage or shed, and/or if it blocks the insured's driveway or handicap access entrance.
• Power failure and food spoilage: Damage from burst pipes from a power failure is covered by most homeowners policies. Food spoilage is normally excluded if the cause is an off-premises power outage. Limited coverage may be added by a homeowners policy endorsement (coverage usually up to $500).
• Basement water backup: Coverage for water backup in basements (drains/sewers) is excluded from flood insurance and most standard homeowners insurance policies. However, water backup coverage may be available by endorsement. Check with your insurer for coverage details. Cost averages about $50/year.
• Slick walkways: Generally, your homeowners policy will cover liability for injuries, should someone slip and fall on your property. Your city or municipality may have snow-removal statutes. Check to see if certain laws apply.
• At-fault car accidents: Property damage liability coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to others. If you carry collision coverage, it will cover damages to your vehicle due to a collision, no matter who caused it.
• Other vehicle coverage: Vehicles damaged by fallen ice, tree limbs or flooding are normally covered under the "other-than-collision" (also known as "comprehensive") portion of an auto insurance policy. This is optional coverage that protects insured vehicles in situations other than a collision or overturn.
If an unfortunate situation were to occur, Ohioans should take reasonable steps to prevent additional damage. If required to seek temporary housing, check your policy for "loss of use" coverage, which provides protection when an insured residence cannot be lived in due to a covered loss (i.e. fire or wind storm damage).
Ohioans with insurance questions can call the Ohio Department of Insurance consumer hotline at 1-800-686-1526 and visit www.insurance.ohio.gov for information. You can follow the Department on twitter @OHInsurance and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/OhioDepartmentofInsurance.
The mission of the Ohio Department of Insurance is to provide consumer protection through education and fair but vigilant regulation while promoting a stable and competitive environment for insurers.
OII is a trade association representing insurance companies and agent groups for Ohio's property/casualty industry. Its main objective is to increase understanding of insurance and related safety issues.