Frozen Pipes, Hail Damage And Tree Collapses Most Costly Winter Claims For Homeowners
An analysis of The Hartford’s winter weather claims history finds that frozen pipes, hail damage and tree collapses are the three costliest homeowners’ claims. To help homeowners prepare for winter weather, The Hartford analyzed five years of its claims data and surveyed 184 of its property adjusters for their best advice for the season.
“We know winter weather can create challenges for homeowners,” said John Kinney, chief claim officer for The Hartford. “Our goal is to help people prepare for unexpected weather, protect what’s important to them and prevail over the season.”
One of the most common and costliest cold weather claims is frozen pipes. While most common in the Northeast and Midwest, frozen pipes happen in all areas of the country and average about $18,000 per claim.
The Hartford’s adjusters recommend learning where the water shut-off is before faced with a frozen pipe or water leak. If damage occurs from a water leak or frozen pipe, a homeowner may need to find a service company to help clean up, which may help save money and prevent further damage from mounting.
Hail damage is another common and costly winter weather claim, especially in the South where it is three times more common than in other areas. Roof damage from hail is more likely at the end of winter and can lead to claims that average $10,000.
Claims for hail damage are often filed late because the damage isn’t always easy to see. After large hail storm, a homeowner may want to consider hiring a professional to examine the roof if they’re not able to safely inspect it. Filing an insurance claim as soon as damage is noticed allows the insurance company to start working with the homeowner sooner to minimize the damage.
Wind damage and tree collapses are another common and costly winter weather claim. Trees in the West are generally larger than other parts of the country and claims in this area average more than $10,000. By comparison, tree collapse claims range on average from $3,000 to $5,000 in the Northeast, Midwest and South.
The Hartford recommends regularly assessing the trees and other vegetation on the property. Weakened tree limbs can easily come down in windy weather so the adjusters suggest maintaining and trimming trees near the home that could fall on the house, other buildings or vehicles during a storm.
Season, Storm, Supplies
To help homeowners prepare for winter’s worst, consider the “Three S’s“:
- Seasonal maintenance is critical. Have the heating system serviced on an annual basis, which includes testing to make sure the heat is working throughout the home. It’s also important to insulate any pipes that are susceptible to freezing and unhook hoses from outdoor faucets.
- Storm preparation tips include moving vehicles off the street and/or away from large tree limbs and having the snow blower serviced. Become familiar with how to trip the manual release on overhead garage door openers and having shovels ready ahead of the storm.
- Supplies on hand are important in the event of an extended power outage. Have bottled water and non-perishable foods, clothing and blankets, batteries and flashlights. It’s also helpful to have a supply of rock salt, other ice melt or sand, in case the stores run out during a particular storm.
Years of experience has helped The Hartford’s claims adjusters understand the benefits of planning ahead. Half the adjusters surveyed (50 percent) said they begin preparing their own homes for winter at the end of summer, around Labor Day. Another 45 percent said they start as soon as the first cold front hits. Only 4 percent said they wait for a specific storm warning.
Most Common Mistakes
Despite the best laid plans, it may be necessary to file an insurance claim after winter storm damage. The Hartford’s adjusters indicated the most common claim filing mistakes made by homeowners are:
- Not trying to mitigate or limit damage while waiting for an adjuster to arrive.
- Waiting to file a claim.
- Throwing away items without taking an inventory or capturing documentation.
For more tips from The Hartford’s claims experts, visit http://www.thehartford.com/winter.
The Hartford conducted an online survey of 184 of its property adjusters between Oct. 17, 2014 and Oct. 24, 2014. The Hartford’s claims data is from homeowners claims during the last five full winters (December to March) for weather-related perils. The claims data was organized by the regions as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau.
About The Hartford
With more than 200 years of expertise, The Hartford (NYSE:HIG) is a leader in property and casualty insurance, group benefits and mutual funds. The company is widely recognized for its service excellence, sustainability practices, trust and integrity. More information on the company and its financial performance is available at www.thehartford.com. Join us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/TheHartford. Follow us on Twitter at www.twitter.com/TheHartford.
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