Harrisburg, PA – Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman today urged Pennsylvanians to review their homeowners and auto insurance policies as the state braces for freezing temperatures and snow. As Pennsylvania deals with both a mixture of rain and snow, it is important to use extreme caution in these conditions, as weather-related incidents will rise.
"While Pennsylvanians are quite familiar with winter weather, it is essential for residents to make winter emergency preparedness a priority. December through February generally bring the most treacherous and long-lasting severe weather conditions across the state, like sub-freezing temperatures, snow, ice and sleet," Altman said. "Individuals should take proper precautions and review their homeowners and auto insurance policies in the event of a weather-related incident."
Most standard homeowner policies provide coverage for cold weather-related damage. However, taking steps to prepare can help mitigate some issues before they arise.
- Weatherproof the home by installing weather-stripping and caulking and insulating walls, doors and windows
- Insulate water lines that run along exterior walls; pipes are less likely to freeze
- Have furnaces inspected by a professional and change the air filter(s)
- Have the fireplace and chimney professionally cleaned and inspected
- Install battery-operated carbon monoxide (CO) detectors near every sleeping area in the home
- Clean gutters to prevent ice; roof ice dams can cause water to build-up, leading to interior damage
- Clear storm drains along the curb to enable water to drain. If clogged, water could potentially go into low-lying areas and flood basements
- Have an emergency preparedness kit stored safely in your house that includes water, non-perishable food, a first aid kit, extra batteries, a battery or hand-crank powered radio, emergency lighting or flashlights, extra blankets and warm clothing
- Have the radiator serviced and make sure to replace windshield wipers and wiper fluid with a solution that will not freeze
- Replace any worn tires and check air pressure regularly
- Have the brakes, brake fluid, oil, car battery, heater and exhaust checked to make sure everything is running efficiently
- Keep an emergency preparedness kit in the vehicle stocked with batteries, battery-powered or hand-crank radio, flashlight, flares, windshield scraper, jumper cables, mobile phone charger, shovel, blankets, first aid kit, non-perishable food and bottled water in the event you get stranded or stuck
Trimming dead tree branches can also help reduce the chance of a branch breaking under the weight of snow or ice and causing damage to a home or a vehicle.
If damage does occur, property owners should only make temporary repairs that are necessary to prevent further damage until an adjuster is able to view the property. Making permanent repairs without the guidance of an adjuster could result in a claim's denial.
When driving in severe weather, exercise extreme caution. Even if snow or sleet is no longer falling, road conditions can still be dangerous and slippery.
If weather conditions contribute to an accident, auto insurance will help pay for the damage, but the consumer may still have to pay a deductible. Damage to a vehicle caused by hitting another car or structures like a lamp post, telephone pole, building, sign, or fence will be covered under a policy's collision coverage. Damage from forces of nature like falling ice or tree limbs is covered under comprehensive coverage.
"Winter weather conditions can be unpredictable and cause unexpected incidents or accidents," Altman said. "It's important to report any incident to your insurance company as soon as possible to ensure that your property is properly assessed, repaired or replaced as needed."
Consumers who have questions or concerns about how a claim was handled can contact the Insurance Department's Consumer Services Bureau by calling 1-877-881-6388 or online at www.insurance.pa.gov.
For more information on homeowners and auto insurance, visit www.insurance.pa.gov.