Pennsylvania Insurance Commissioner Offers Tips for Claims Related to Winter Storms

March 24, 2010

February 19, 2010

Harrisburg – Pennsylvanians who suffered property damages as a result of the recent winter storms should carefully review their homeowners insurance policies, Insurance Commissioner Joel Ario said today.

“There may be some confusion about what is covered by your insurance policy, which is why it is important to read and understand what coverage you purchased,” Ario said. “Damage to your house and its contents caused by weight of snow or ice, creating a collapse, is covered under standard homeowners insurance policies.”

Freezing conditions such as burst pipes or ice dams, a condition where water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into a house causing damage to ceilings and walls, is also covered by many homeowner policies

“Most damage resulting from fallen trees is covered by your homeowner’s policy, but consumers should check with their company before calling a tree removal service as removal costs may also be covered. Also, consumers may be held responsible if a tree they own has fallen on a neighbor’s property,” he added.

Ario noted that consumers should also ask their insurance company about food spoilage as a result of a power outage, debris clean up, structural damage to a home, rain spouts, sewage problems, broken water pipes, freezing pipes and furnace damage, among other problems.

Consumers who have suffered losses should take the following steps:

  •  Contact your insurance company immediately to report your loss. Follow the instructions given to you by claims personnel. Since there may be a lot of people needing help at the same time, anything you have done before the disaster to prepare for a loss will be to your benefit now.
  •  Take notes and pictures. Start from the beginning and keep a log of the people you spoke to and when. Summarize your conversation. Ask questions if you do not understand instructions. If possible, take pictures of the damage, both inside and outside of your home.
  • Figure out the extent of the damage. Separate the damaged from the undamaged property and put it in the best possible order for the adjuster’s examination. If possible, protect the property from further damage.
  •  Wait for the adjuster to arrive. Do not call anyone to repair or replace your loss without first getting instructions from your adjuster. Your insurer’s visual inspection of your loss may be necessary before repairs are undertaken. Do not throw away damaged property until your company’s adjuster advises you it is safe to do so. If your home is damaged, make only temporary repairs until a claims adjuster inspects the damage. Making permanent repairs before the adjuster’s inspection could trigger a denial of your claim.
  •  Be careful when choosing a contractor to make repairs. Before signing a contract, check references to make sure you are working with a reputable firm. Consult the Better Business Bureau. Consumers need to be prepared so they are not taken advantage of by unscrupulous businesses or people. Consumers should examine their options, get more than one estimate, ask for and check references, and, most importantly, get everything in writing.

 If your claim is denied, review the terms of your policy for what is or is not covered. You may also file an appeal to your insurance company’s claim manager. If questions remain, feel free to contact the Insurance Department.

For more information, visit or call the department’s toll-free, automated consumer hotline at (877) 881-6388, or any of the department’s Bureau of Consumer Services’ regional offices: Harrisburg at (717) 787-2317; or Philadelphia at (215) 560-2630.


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