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Thursday, September 1, 2011

Post Irene - what was really covered?

One major aftershock of Hurricane Irene (See you didn’t know that hurricanes can have aftershocks, too, did you?) is that homeowners are discovering that much of the real damage caused by Irene is not covered by their homeowners insurance policies.

While those who took a direct hit by the high winds that Irene packed will likely be covered (but not necessarily); the majority of Irene’s damage was caused by flooding (either tidal surges or rain-swollen streams and rivers) and that is almost never covered (unless you have flood insurance or a flood rider on your policy). Those in land locked Vermont, who were ravaged by swollen rivers, are particularly out of luck. Most did not have flood insurance, since they did not live in normal flood zones.

The other thing that sometimes comes into play is where a possession is when the damage occurs. If your car is sitting out in the driveway and the flooding from Irene’s rains inundates it, ruining it and causing a total loss, then your car insurance policy will likely cover the replacement. However, it you parked it in the garage to avoid any possibility of hail damage and that same flood water inundated it in your garage, it would fall under the homeowners’ policy and may not be covered since you didn’t have flood insurance. There was a good article in the Sacramento Bee about the gaps in insurance coverage that are letting insurance companies off the hook for most of Irene’s damage.

Irene is one of hundred-year events that we’ve been seeing a lot of lately. If nothing else it should cause all of us to question what is covered and not covered when big natural disasters hit. If my car is in the driveway when the tornado goes through uprooting a big tree that falls on it is it my car insurance or my homeowners policy that I should turn to for coverage and a replacement? What about if it was in the garage at the time and the tree crushed both the garage and my car?

Most of us probably suffer from the FDH syndrome when it comes to insurance – Fat, Dumb and Happy. We really don’t know what is covered and what’s not. Perhaps we don’t really want to know. But, in this case; what we don’t know can hurt us. Check your coverage before it’s time to try to file a claim.

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