Hidden behind that gorgeous blanket of snow are harsh winter storms waiting to do serious damage to your home. The winter season creates the most common and costly claims for home and car owners. In fact, III estimated that winter storms caused $1 billion in insured losses in 2016.

They also found that the overall percentage of winter-related claims has increased at a higher rate than previous decades, likely due to the severity of storms and increase in the number of people with insurance protection. Nearly 51% of all insurance homeowners’ claims come from wintery wind, hail, and weather-related water damage. Moreover, more collisions and “acts of God” occur while out on the road during or after a winter storm.

Preparing for winter incidents and cold weather claims begins with prevention methods and thorough insurance protection. Let’s take a look at the most common causes of claims in winter weather and what you can do to protect yourself from these costly concerns.

Common Winter Claims

1. Wind damage

The most common homeowners claim filed is due to wind damage. Nearly one in 35 insured homes have a property damage claim related to wind or hail each year, according to The Insurance Information Institute. Wind is more intense during the winter months and thus creates a majority of these costly claims.

Prepare for wind damage:

  • Remove and store all unsecured outdoor items like umbrellas, furniture, and play items.
  • Inspect your home for loose gutters, shutters, and shingles.
  • Trim dead or weak tree branches around the house. Tree collapse is the third most costly winter weather claim, averaging nearly $6,000 per tree.
  • Be aware of nearby power lines. Trim trees around power lines. Ensure power lines near your property are secure. If not, call the phone or cable company for further fastening.

Wind damage is not always covered by your homeowners’ insurance. In fact, wind and flood are often exclusions on many homeowners’ policies. In this way, you’ll want to talk to your insurance agent before the winter season hits in order to ensure you are fully protected from any costs associated with wind damage. 

2. Hail

Hail can do serious damage to your roof, siding, porch, and automobile.In 2014, State Farm alone had $2.4 billion in damages caused by wind and hail, according to III.

You can’t prevent hail, but you can prepare for it:

  • Inspect your roof and siding every autumn. Repair loose or missing tiles.
  • If you live in an area where hail is common, you can consider installing hail-resistant asphalt shingles. This precaution could even help lower your insurance premium.
  • Never drive during a hailstorm. If you get caught in a storm, park at a nearby gas station underneath the awning. If that’s not possible, pull over and get in the back seat of the car away from the windshield, which could shatter.

Like wind, some homeowners’ policies have hail exclusion. Check with your insurance agent to make sure you’re covered. Discuss the different sorts of claims process and coverage lines with regards to hail. For your auto insurance, you’ll want to have comprehensive insurance, which will repair your car from “acts of God” like hail, falling icicles, or icy branches.

3. Frozen pipes

If your pipes get too cold, the water inside them will freeze. This ice can expand and burst the pipes, leading to water loss and water damage in your home. A study by Disaster Safety found that frozen pipes resulted in losses of around $10,000, which is twice as severe as other sorts of plumbing failures. Freezing pipes accounts for 18% of all water damage claims. Damages from frozen pipes can include flooding, ceiling collapse, damaged floors and walls, mold, and more. 

Interestingly, insurance companies often consider frozen pipes a “preventable problem.” They may say that your negligence caused the damage. This means that you could be stuck with a $10,000 water damage bill without your insurance company stepping in.

Thus, it’s crucial to protect your home against frozen pipe damage:

  • Drain and disconnect all hoses.
  • Drain the sprinkler supply lines.
  • Keep your home warm at a minimum of 65 degrees.
  • Insulate pipes in unheated spaces, like basements, garages, and attics. You can use pipe sleeves or heat tape.
  • Leave garage doors closed.
  • If you have a swimming pool, run the pump during nights where temperatures are expected to go below freezing.
  • When it’s especially cold outside, let cool water drip from your faucets. This will keep your water flowing, so they have less chance of freezing in the pipes. 
  • Know where your water is shut off. If your pipes do burst, the first step is to turn off the water to reduce any further damage.

4. Snow and ice damage

Snow and ice looks pretty, but it can be so heavy that it can severely damage your house. The average claim for snow and ice damage to the home is around $4,700. Snow heavier than 1-2 feet or 4 inches of ice can crush your roof or cause falling tree branches. Water can freeze in and clog your gutters, creating “ice dams” that prevent proper runoff. This can cause a water buildup that can seep into your roof and ceiling.

  • Prevent ice dams. Seal any gaps that allow warm air to leak into the attic. Keep your attic ventilated. Insulate your home’s heating system so it doesn’t escape through the ceiling.
  • Get a roof rake to help get rid of heavy snow after major storms.
  • Inspect your roof before the season for any weak areas that need repair.
  • Trim all trees near the house, and get rid of weak or dead branches.

5. Slips and falls

Moreover, snow and ice can cause liability concerns on your property. An icy walkway or driveway could cause slips and falls, for which you will be liable. Even if the person injured on your property wasn’t invited, they could still sue you if they were injured after an icy slip on your property. This same liability applies if they are hit by a falling icicle, dead tree branch, and other winter concerns.

  • Always shovel your driveway and walkway after a storm.
  • Apply commercial-grade salt to help melt the ice faster. 
  • Ensure you are fully covered with homeowners’ liability insurance.

6. Ice on road

Winter storms can do an equal amount of damage to your car. Icy roads can cause you to lose brakes, hydroplane, and slide into another object or car. In winter storms, you lose nearly all control of your vehicle.

  • Don’t drive during winter storms or during times of expected inclement weather. Never drive during a declared state of emergency.
  • Always have food and water in your car in case you get trapped inside.
  • Keep an emergency car kit and first aid kit in your vehicle.
  • Have your insurance carrier or AAA’s number in the car in case you need to be towed.

P.S. Be sure to remove all ice from the top and windshield of your car. If any snow and ice chunks fly off and cause an accident, you will be found at fault (which is where your auto liability insurance would come in).

7. Fire

Fires are also more common in the winter months due to the dry air and increase of fireplace use. The national average for fire and smoke damage is $9,815 but can be up to $30,000. Avoid costly fire claims with just a few precautions:

  • Check that all fireplaces, stoves, and heaters are working properly.
  • Keep no combustible items near heat sources.
  • Get your chimney cleaned.
  • Close the fireplace flue when not in use.
  • Learn more about home fire safety here.

Insurance you need this winter

Homeowners insurance:

  • Liability: protects from slips, falls, and injuries on your property during winter storm
  • Wind and hail riders: ensures you have a line of coverage against these “acts of God

Flood insurance:

  • Flood: covers any potential frozen pipes or ice damage

Auto insurance:

  • Property Damage Liability: covers costs to another person’s vehicle if you are at-fault for an accident, including if your car skids on ice or snow
  • Bodily Injury Liability: covers medical costs and retribution to a damaged party if you are found at-fault (like ice flies off your car)
  • Collision: covers damage to your car if you slip on ice or hydroplane into a pole, tree, car, or other objects
  • Comprehensive: covers all acts of God like hail, falling trees, and icicles
  • Personal Injury Protection: covers your own medical expenses and costs if you are injured in your car

The Bottom Line

You can’t prevent a winter storm, but you can mitigate the risk to your wallet. Start by maintaining your home and your car to help avoid any wintery concerns with wind, hail, snow, ice, and more. You can also download our free Winter Insurance Guide here to ensure your home and insurance policies are ready for the upcoming weather.

Contact an insurance agent to make sure you are fully prepared and covered for all the harms winter brings with it. It’s always the right time to get covered… so get a quote now!