Weathering the Storm : Are You Covered for Auto Insurance Claims?

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The recent outbreak of severe weather in the southern and mid-west United States was complete with videos and pictures of cars that were stacked like cord wood by tornados and other severe weather.   And, just about every time that flooding hits a particular region, vehicles are shown submerged on roadways that were subject to an unexpected flash flood as a nearby stream or river overflowed.

If your area of the country is struck by a storm, earthquake, or other natural disaster, and your vehicle is damaged, does your car insurance policy cover you for repairs, replacement, or a rental car?

Know Before Mother Nature Blows

In the big scheme of things, when a local tragedy strikes such as happened recently in Joplin, Missouri, the last thing residents want to think about in the immediate aftermath is whether or not their car is covered.   As life returns to normal after a natural disaster hits, though, reality sets in.   The personal financial toll can be devastating, and that’s what insurance is all about: helping piece your life back together after such an event.

So, let’s take a look at a few natural disaster scenarios, and the potential for damage coverage on your vehicle:

  • Flooding: Flood damage to your vehicle can happen at any time of the year, but most typically occurs in the spring with snow melt and rising rivers downstream.   From an insurance adjuster’s perspective, the most important question is going to be whether or not you had time to move your vehicle to higher ground, or if you were caught by surprise (a flash flood during or after heavy rain).   If you have comprehensive coverage on your vehicle, you should be covered – however, depending on the circumstances, this might not be the case.
  • Tornado, hurricane: The path of a severe storm, such as a tornado or hurricane, can be difficult to predict.   If your vehicle is damaged in such a storm, as long as you’ve taken reasonable precautions against damage, and have comprehensive coverage, you should have no difficulty in filing a claim.   Circumstances can vary, though.
  • Hail: In general, hail damage (broken windows, subsequent water damage to the interior, external body / paint damage) should be covered by your comprehensive coverage.   It is very important, though, that you have clear before and after pictures to document the condition of the vehicle prior to the storm.   Hail damage can present differently to an adjuster than normal storm type damage.
  • Earthquake:  Like other natural disasters, earthquakes know no geographic boundary, even though these types of events tend to occur in specific areas, such as California.   While comprehensive insurance may cover your vehicle, some insurance companies have specific exclusions regarding this kind of disaster.

The bottom line regarding all types of natural disasters is to plan ahead.   If you’re in an area that is prone to weather related natural disasters, review your policy and check with your agent if you have any questions with respect to your coverage.