Winter storms and weather can create tremendous property damage for homeowners. Extreme winter weather events bring ice, snow, and freezing temperatures, which can damage entire communities. These can lead to legal conflicts with homeowners insurance companies struggling to keep up with the influx of property claims. In such cases, a homeowners insurance attorney can provide guidance when dealing with insurance policy issues.
In February 2021, a severe winter storm left millions of Texans in the freezing cold and without power for days, many of them lacking access to safe drinking water. Many residents experienced a host of other property issues, including burst water pipes and collapsed roofs. It can take months and years, not just days, for people to recover financially from such events.
Over 4 million customers lost power, and more than 20 people died in connection with the February 2021 winter weather event in Texas.
If you or a loved one have been affected by winter weather damage and are facing an insurance dispute, you may need the help of a homeowners insurance lawyer. Contact Pierce Skrabank at 832-690-7000 for a free, confidential consultation about your property claim.
There are several advantages to hiring a lawyer before you file your insurance claim, which will be explained in more detail in this article.
Winter weather can cause a wide range of property damage. This depends on many factors, including the nature of the weather events, and how well the property owner was prepared to meet such conditions.
Common forms of winter weather damage include:
Extremely low temperatures can cause water pipes to rupture. This can cause major property damage and may also leave the residents without water for an extended period of time.
Homeowners’ insurance typically won’t cover burst water pipes, but it may often cover the resulting water damage. What this means, however, is that the homeowner will likely have to come out of pocket to pay a plumber to fix the actual broken pipes.
Burst water pipes can be avoided by preparing them with extra insulation, especially ones that run along outside walls. Turning off valves to outdoor pipes can also help.
A large percentage of property damage insurance claims are from falling trees or falling tree limbs. During winter storms, these can fall on people’s homes, causing damage to the roofs, electrical services, and other aspects of the property.
Winter weather event insurance usually covers tree damage, though disputes can still arise regarding the extent of damage and reimbursements.
Ice dams form when water backs up in the home’s gutters and then freezes. This can create long icicles which can make the house look picturesque; however, icicles are actually a sign that the roof and gutter may be in danger of damage. Clogged gutters can then later lead to water accumulating and leaking into the house.
Ice dams can often be prevented by increasing attic ventilation — hot air trapped in the attic causes snow on the roof to melt and then refreeze in the gutters.
Wintery weather can block main access points around a home and can make walkways slippery. For instance, the weight of snow or ice on fences can cause them to collapse. This can create various forms of property damage and increase the risk of slip and fall injuries.
To help prevent injuries, be proactive and use de-icing salt to clear pathways. It can also help to block off dangerous pathways or areas.
An important point to understand about insurance companies is their main priority as a business is protecting their own profits and bottom line. After a severe event like a winter storm or a hurricane (such as Hurricane Laura), you can expect homeowners insurance agents to try to limit coverage for insured policyholders.
Common responses that insurance companies might make to contradict a claim include:
Insurance companies will be bombarded with thousands of claims after severe weather events. The responses above may often be used in efforts to process claims quickly. Errors can also occur, as agents may sometimes be undertrained or under certified, or acting as a rep in a part-time capacity.
Therefore, it’s in your best interests to consult with a homeowners insurance attorney prior to contacting your insurance company about a claim. Your attorney can help ensure that your claim is filed in a timely manner and that it meets all the requirements.
If your residence was damaged due to fallen trees or limbs, broken water pipes, or other winter weather damage, contact an attorney as soon as possible to learn about your legal rights and next steps. In the meantime, the following tips can help you protect yourself and your assets:
These tips can help prevent disputes; however, if you do have a dispute, the services of a lawyer can be of great assistance. In addition, your attorney will be able to protect you from one of the more prevalent concerns: insurance fraud.
Insurance fraud happens in various settings, and homeowners insurance is no exception. The following pointers can help you protect yourself from fraud:
The average homeowner may not be in a position to recognize or identify when insurance fraud is happening to them. For instance, after a weather crisis or emergency, people are often in a state of confusion and despair, making them all the more susceptible to deceitful insurance tactics.
For these reasons, it is all the more important to consult with an attorney before you begin the claims process. Having an attorney on your side will help ease your mind about negotiations, contract terms, and filing requirements — your attorney will do the bulk of the lifting for you.
Winter weather events can create long-term challenges and struggles for homeowners. If you or a loved one have been affected by a winter storm and are facing difficulties with your insurance company, contact Pierce Skrabanek for legal representation. We have decades of experience going up against large institutions and companies. Our proven track record showcases our ability to obtain the best possible financial awards for our clients.
Get in touch with us at 832-690-7000 for a free, no-cost obligation regarding your property damage and winter insurance issues. It’s best to contact an attorney early, so they can assist you throughout the process in dealing with the insurance company.
It’s typically acceptable to make temporary, emergency repairs to your property to stop more damage. This includes things like shutting off the water or covering holes in the roof. However, you should hold off on more permanent repairs until you’ve had an assessment with your insurance company.
Your policy will likely cover the materials and labor needed for repairs. Be sure to take pictures of the initial damage before work is done, as well as the progress of the repairs.
Most likely not — additional living expenses like hotel fees usually only apply if the house was physically damaged. However, if you have questions, contact your insurance agent or an attorney to determine the exact details of your coverage.
Homeowners insurance usually does cover hotel stays if there is physical damage to the property. However, there will likely also be limits on the amount of coverage. If you will be staying at a hotel or shelter for an extended period of time, you may need to cover a portion of the fees.
Policies usually cover snow and ice damage to a certain extent. The policy may cover only specific scenarios, such as when a roof, fence, or patio collapses under the weight of snow. Snow damage insurance coverage can vary if the collapse damages other parts of the property.