Insurance: The price of winter

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — When the phone rings at Danielle Rowland’s State Farm Insurance office in downtown Grand Rapids these days, it’s all about the weather.

“Definitely have had a lot of claims. It’s been brutal,” Rowland said.

Fender benders and roof damage are the  two biggest problems clients are filing claims over.

Potholes are another problem. While most insurance companies regard potholes as an at-fault accident, don’t write off calling your agent. You may have a claim depending on a number of factors including whether you could avoid the pothole.

If you knock into someone on an icy roadway,  no-fault insurance kicks in.

“If somebody else causes the accident — you’re not at fault — potentially you’re able to file a claim on the other person’s policy,” Rowland explained.

But if you slip off the road and into a ditch, you’re not so lucky.

“Typically these are considered at-fault accidents,” Rowland said. “The theory behind it is that you should adjust for the driving conditions.”

Every winter brings driving hazards, but this winter has hit home — specifically,  the roof over your head.

Ice dams, a buildup of snow and ice on roofs that can damage shingles and lead to leaking — are huge problems. Insurance companies will cover damage caused by ice dams,  even if your roof comes down.

“In most situations the damage that’s caused by the ice dam is covered. Not necessarily the the repair of the roof, if there was something wrong with the roof.”

That’s the good news.

The bad news is that adjusters are so busy you may have to wait for your claim to be processed.  In the most severe cases, Rowland says to expect a wait of up to 48 hours.

“And then if it’s a non-severe, where your home, you can still live there, it could be even longer than that,” she said.

Rowland reminded policy holders to have patience and to take plenty of pictures to document the damage before you do any cleanup or repair.

But what if your home is unlivable?

“There’s a feature in your policy called ‘loss of use’ that allows the insurance company to cover your hotel expenses or an apartment expense while you home is being repaired,” Rowland said.

The next question: What all this going to cost us when it comes to the premiums we pay?

When it comes to auto accidents, it depends on the circumstances, like who’s at fault. When it comes to your homeowner’s insurance, it’s too early to tell.

But insurance companies set their rates over a period of years.

“One event, one season, is not going to drive pricing up,” Rowland said. “That happens over a series of events or a series of years, so it’s already been built into that premium we’re paying.”

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