Insurance Superintendent Urges Mainers to Plan for Winter by Checking Insurance Coverage

Policyholders are Often Unaware of What’s Covered and What Isn’t

GARDINER  –  Insurance Superintendent Eric Cioppa is urging Mainers to plan ahead for winter storms, weather-related emergencies, and accidental fires associated with heating sources, holiday decorations and other potential winter hazards.  Homeowners and renters are encouraged to check their insurance policies and make sure their coverage is sufficient to address property damage.

“With severe weather always a possibility this time of year, it’s important to make sure your home or apartment is protected from storms and other potential winter hazards,” Superintendent Cioppa stated.  “Too many policyholders are devastated to learn—after suffering a loss—that their homeowners or renter policy doesn’t cover a particular loss.” 

Cioppa listed common examples of winter-related property damage that is typically covered by standard policies:

·      damage caused by wind or wind-driven rain;

·      trees or other falling objects;

·      the collapse of a structure caused by the weight of ice or snow; and

·      frozen pipes due to extreme cold—unless the damage is due to negligence, such as failing to maintain an adequate temperature in the house when it was possible to do so.

Examples of damage that many consumers believe are covered by a standard homeowners insurance policy, but generally aren’t, were also highlighted by Cioppa:

·      interior water damage from a storm when there is no storm-related damage to the roof or walls;

·      water damage as the result of a flood;

·      removal of fallen trees (if the trees do not land on and damage your home);

·      food spoilage due to a power outage; and

·      water damage from backed-up drains or sewers.

Some insurers offer additional protection, called ‘endorsements,’ that can be purchased.  They provide specific coverage not included in the standard homeowner policy.  Homeowners and renters are encouraged to check with their insurance agent or company to ask questions, determine needs, and ensure adequate coverage.

To prepare for future storms and possible natural disasters, the Bureau of Insurance urges Mainers to:

n      Plan now for a potential future claim.  Inventory personal property, including all model names and serial numbers.  Don’t overlook items used seasonally or infrequently, such as special china and silverware, holiday decorations, summer and winter sports equipment, and carpentry tools.  Save sales receipts and take photographs.  Consider videotaping rooms.  Store the information off-premises, such as in a bank safe deposit box.  Visit the Bureau’s website (www.maine.gov/insurance) to obtain a free Home Inventory Tool, listed under “Consumer Tools” on the homepage.

n      Review insurance coverage to make sure it is adequate.  It is important to insure your home and belongings to their full replacement cost.  Flooding is generally not covered under standard homeowner’s policies, so ask your agent about the National Flood Insurance Program.  If you rent a house or apartment, talk to your agent about renters’ insurance.

n      Learn about flood insurance.  You can protect your home, business, and belongings with flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP), which can be purchased from private insurance companies and agents.  Whether you rent or own your home or business, ask your agent about contents coverage.  It is not automatically included with the NFIP building coverage.  There is usually a 30-day waiting period before the flood coverage goes into effect.  For information, contact NFIP at 1-800-638-6620 or visit www.floodsmart.gov.

n      Contact the Bureau of Insurance if you have questions related to recent damage, or if you’d like additional information to prepare for the future, by calling toll-free 1-800-300-5000 or visiting www.maine.gov/insurance.

The Bureau of Insurance is part of the Department of Professional and Financial Regulation, which encourages sound ethical business practices through regulation of insurers, financial institutions, creditors, investment providers, and numerous professions and occupations for the purpose of protecting the citizens of Maine. Consumers can reach the Bureau through its web site atwww.maine.gov/insurance; by calling 800-300-5000 in state; or by writing to Bureau of Insurance, 34 State House Station, Augusta, ME  04333.


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