After Hurricane Harvey, images of the damage caused by the storm dominated the news cycle. The images of Hurricane Harvey survivors were unforgettable. As people waded to their homes or boated through their streets, one of the most common sites was countless cars, partially submerged and destroyed by the unforgiving storm.
So, does car insurance cover damage caused to a vehicle by a hurricane? It depends. Knowing your rights as an insurance holder might be the key to making sure you’re prepared for the challenges of the next unexpected storm.
Comprehensive Insurance Covers Storm Damage
There are two general types of insurance coverage for cars: liability and comprehensive. Liability insurance covers the damage you might cause to other cars after an accident. If you’re hit by another driver, you’ll likely make a claim using their liability coverage. Likewise, if you cause an accident, your liability covers the damages associated with it. Comprehensive insurance, on the other hand, provides coverage for all types of damage to your vehicle—whether it was caused by someone else, a natural disaster, or other things.
Unfortunately, drivers frequently drop comprehensive coverage to save money on their policy. This is especially true because most states only require drivers to carry liability insurance. The law does not require drivers to have a comprehensive policy. Yet, having this coverage might be sorely missed by any driver after hurricanes and other naturally disasters occur.
A comprehensive policy will cover damage up to your car’s value before it occurred. Comprehensive insurance will also help cover the costs of renting a vehicle while yours is out of commission. However, this amount varies with every policy, so it is essential to know how much rental reimbursement your policy provides.
Comprehensive insurance typically covers incidents such as the following:
- Falling objects
- Damage from animals
It's important to note that comprehensive insurance only covers damage to a car. If a person loses valuables inside of their car during a storm, these must be replaced or paid for through a home insurance claim.
Tips for Checking Your Car After a Storm
If severe weather has passed through your area, it might be tempting to get outside and check on your car as soon as possible. While you can do this, it’s important to remember to take some precautions when heading outside.
First, make sure you look for broken glass and exposed nails from boards that have been torn up during the storm. Next, avoid downed power lines to avoid electric shock and, in the worst case, electrocution. To be as safe as possible, avoid entering any deep pools of water—they can hide hazards and even be charged with an electrical current.
If your vehicle has been submerged in water, don’t try to start it. Turning on an engine that is too wet can cause permanent damage to it. Once inside your car, be cautious of any broken glass that might be inside of it. Always wear protective gloves while cleaning it out.
Finally, document the damage to your car as soon as possible. Don’t forget to take pictures of the inside of it as any damage there will be important for filing your claim.
You should provide the following to your car insurance after a storm:
- When and where the storm occurred
- A description of what happened to your vehicle
- As many photos showing the damage as possible
Will Claiming Storm Damage Cause My Car Insurance Rates to Increase?
Filing a claim doesn’t always mean your insurance rates will increase. This is especially true if the damage you’re claiming wasn’t caused by you. However, if you live in an area that’s recently been hit by serious weather, your rates my go up along with everyone else who is near you. Insurance companies sometimes use natural disasters as a reason to increase rates and account for heightened claims in the area.
What If I’m Uncertain That the Damage Exceeds My Deductible?
You should still report damage, even if you’re unsure it’s enough for an insurance claim. Your insurance company will help you assess the damage and decide if filing a claim is the right option. Remember, you don’t have to file a claim if you decide it isn’t worth it. Additionally, don’t take your insurance company’s word if it claims your damage is covered. Companies occasionally delay or deny valid claims. If you’re suspicious that your insurer isn’t holding up their end of the deal, calling an attorney can help you hold it accountable.
Signs your car insurer isn’t handling your storm damage claim include:
- Delayed responses
- Denied claims
- Suspiciously low damage estimates
- It's using stipulations that you’re not sure are valid
Car Insurance Claims After a Flood
When someone pays their insurance premiums for years, they reasonably expect insurers to provide help when they need it the most. Unfortunately, some insurers don't handle claims like they should. To protect profits, many insurers delay payment or offer a lower settlement than you deserve. By frustrating their claimants, they're hoping claimants will either give up on their claim or take a low-ball offer, both of which save the insurance company money.
If you're having trouble with an insurance claim after a powerful storm, help is available from the insurance claims attorneys at Arnold & Itkin. Our hurricane car insurance attorneys are experienced in dealing with insurance companies and can help you maneuver around their tactics.