8 spring insurance hazards: Are you covered?

By Margarette Burnette Posted : 03/30/2011

Springtime is the season of warmer  temperatures, melting snow and soothing rain showers. While the mild weather is refreshing, it can also reveal damage inflicted by a long, cold and snowy winter. In addition, spring floods and hail damage can be the source of new headaches.

All of this can spell unexpected trouble if you're a homeowner or driver, says Jack Hungelmann, author of "Insurance for Dummies."  

"These problems are common, but home and auto insurance policies don't always cover them," he says.

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Here are eight spring hazards that may or may not be covered by standard insurance policies.

1. Spring flooding

When winter snow starts to melt, rivers and creeks may rise. Mix in some spring rains, and there is potential for flooding in many parts of the country.

While a standard home insurance policy covers water damage from sudden occurrences – such as burst pipes – it will not cover destruction related to spring floods.  

Fortunately, you can buy flood coverage from the Federal Emergency Management Agency's National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). These policies may cover the building, foundation and contents of a home. Pricing and availability details are at floodsmart.gov.

Flood insurance has restrictions, though, such as coverage limits and exclusions for basement improvements. And coverage usually does not kick in until 30 days after the insurance is purchased – although there are exceptions to this waiting period, such as when a lender requires you to purchase flood insurance as part of a new home loan.

2. Ice dam damage

When wintry snow or rain falls, melts and refreezes on rooftops, ice on shingles can form a dam that causes subsequent snow melt or rainwater to back up.

Those backups may allow water to leak into the home and ruin walls. Fortunately, you can usually file a claim with your homeowners insurance.

"Water damage from ice dams generally would be covered, but check with your insurer to make sure you know the details of your policy," says Mark Carrasquillo, an account executive with E.G. Bowman insurance company in New York.

While damage to our walls is likely to be covered, your insurance company will not pay to remove the ice dam itself from your roof.

3. Pothole damage

Driving through a pothole may ding up your car or cause damage, but you're typically covered when you have collision coverage with your car insurance. If you don't have coverage, however, you're likely stuck with paying for the costs out of pocket.

4. Cracked driveways

The freezing and thawing of severe ice and snow could encourage cracks in your driveway come springtime. But those cracks are considered wear and tear, so you probably won't be able to make an insurance claim for damage under a basic policy.

“Even so, read your insurance policy to make sure.  Don’t assume it’s not covered unless you see it in writing," says Paul Neleman, vice president of sales and marketing for Actec Systems, a third party company in Atlanta that handles property and casualty claims intake for the insurance industry.

One exception is if your neighbor somehow damaged your driveway – perhaps when laying out salt and sand to melt ice, Neleman says. In those cases, the neighbor's homeowners insurance may end up responsible for the bill, he says.

5. Hail damage

Springtime storms can bring hail that destroys siding and roof shingles. Fortunately, homeowners are usually protected under their home insurance policies, says Hungelmann. And if a window breaks because of a storm, that's typically covered too, along with resulting water damage, he says.

6. Flattened bushes, trees or landscaping

If a freak spring snowstorm flattens your prize bushes or spring rains wash away your landscaping, don't expect home insurance to cover your losses.

"The repair of these items is usually considered maintenance on a home," Carrasquillo says.

7. Rust damage from salt

Cars that drive through winter snow may become damaged due to the salt that's used to help melt snow that's fallen on busy streets. However, if the salt causes rust-related damage to your car, it's usually considered wear and tear, and isn't covered under typical auto insurance policies, says Carrasquillo.

The good news? Rust damage isn't as much of a problem with newer cars as it was in the past, Carrasquillo says. But to be on the safe side, he recommends thoroughly washing any vehicle that's exposed to salt or other potentially corrosive substances now that spring has arrived.

8. Damage from snow plows

If a snow plow operated by your local government takes out your mailbox or dings your car, your municipality would likely have a procedure in place for reimbursement, Neleman says. If this happens to you, he suggests checking with your local jurisdiction to learn how to file a claim.

If it's your neighbor who damages your property with their snow removal equipment, they (and their homeowners insurance company) would likely have to pay, he says.

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