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Winter storm aftermath: what to do about property damage?

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As a result of last week’s winter storm, the American Automobile Association offers tips on how to handle insurances matters relating to damage to your property:
If your car is damaged by a fallen tree or limbs, file a claim using your vehicle policy’s comprehensive coverage.
If your tree falls on your house, your insurance will cover removal of the tree and home repairs due to damage.
If your tree falls on your neighbor’s house, your neighbor’s homeowners’ policy would provide insurance coverage.
The same holds true if your neighbor’s tree falls on your home; you would file a claim with your own insurance company.
If a tree falls in your yard, but doesn’t hit anything, you would pay for its removal in most cases.
And if a tree on your property is weak, damaged, or decayed, but you do nothing about it, and it crashes down, you could be held liable for damages.
Property damage liability coverage pays for damage you (or someone driving the car with your permission) may cause to someone else’s property caused by ice, snow and slippery roads. Usually, this means damage to other cars, but it also includes damage to lamp posts,
Collision coverage pays for damage to your car resulting from a collision with another car, object or as a result of flipping over. It also covers damage caused by potholes.
Physical damage to a car caused by heavy wind, flooding, and fallen ice or tree limbs is covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

Auto Insurance Claims
Car owners should contact their insurance company to determine the extent of coverage before seeking repairs.
Take photographs of any visible damage.
Any vehicle sustaining flood/water damage should be fully inspected before being allowed back on the road.
Mechanical components, computer systems, engine, transmission, axles, brake system and fuel system impacted by water contamination may render the vehicle unfit to drive and in many cases vehicles sustaining significant water damage will be determined to be a total loss.

Home Insurance Coverage
Wind-related damage to a house, its roof, its contents and other insured structures on the property is covered under standard homeowner’s insurance policies.
Wind-driven snow, sleet or rain that causes an opening in the roof or wall and enters through this opening is also covered.
Tree limbs that fall on a house or other insured structure on the property would be covered for both the damage the tree inflicts on the house and the cost of removing the tree, generally up to about $500. Ice or other objects that fall on the home are also covered.
Damage to the house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice that creates a collapse is covered under standard homeowners’ insurance policies.
Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams — a condition in which water is unable to drain properly through gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls — is covered.
However, there is generally a requirement that homeowners has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining pipes, drains and gutters.
Melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up is considered flooding and would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers.
Flood insurance is available to homeowners and renters. Flood damage is not covered by standard homeowners’ or renters’ insurance policies.
Homeowners’ policies include additional living expenses — if a home is severely damaged by an insured disaster, this would pay for reasonable expenses incurred by living elsewhere while the home is being fixed or rebuilt.

Homeowners’ Claims:
The first step to recovery is inspecting your home for damage and then notifying your insurance company as soon as possible.
Prepare an inventory and take photographs of damaged property.
Store undamaged property in a protected place if possible.
If carpet is soaked, remove the carpet and the carpet pad.  Keep a two-foot square piece for the claims adjuster.
Look for hazards such as broken or leaking gas lines, flooded electrical circuits, submerged furnaces or electrical appliances and damaged sewage systems.
Proceed with extreme caution as you inspect your basement. There may be hazards from electrical lines and heating units.
If your basement has flooded, do not pump it out all at once. Remove about one-third of the water per day.  The wet ground surrounding your basement may cause the floors to buckle and the walls to collapse.
Remove contaminated materials from the home. Be aware of exposure to mold.
Carpeting, mattresses and upholstered furniture should be disposed of or cleaned and disinfected by a professional cleaner.
Cover broken windows and other holes to prevent further damage.
Test drywall for moisture softness. If soft, cut holes at base to help dry out.
If possible, run air conditioner, dehumidifier and fans constantly.
If power is out, disconnect computers and appliances from electrical sources.
Open cabinet doors and elevate furniture, allowing air to circulate.
Save wet books or photo albums by putting them on edge in a frost-free freezer.
Be present when the adjuster inspects your damage.