Winter weather can be beautiful, but it can also be destructive. Snow, wind, sleet and freezing rain can cause a host of problems for homeowners, as well as drivers. These problems can become issues that end in claims filed toward your homeowners or auto insurance. This winter, beware of these common claims that peak in the winter months.

1.Tree Branches

In many places across the U.S., winter means snow. This may also mean a rise in homeowner’s claims related to tree damage. Snow is heavy, and can collect on the tops of tree branches. If a branch happens to break and fall on a house, it can cause many different types of damage. Trees can cause roof damage, broken windows and other costly home damages.

If a tree branch or tree does fall on your house, it is recommended to wait to make any repairs until after an insurance adjuster has been able to observe all of the damage. If a tree falls on a house and it is essentially un-livable, insurance may also cover living expenses until the damages are repaired. Even if the tree belonged to someone else, like a neighbor, chances are your homeowner’s coverage would be the one to cover it.

If you have comprehensive coverage, your auto insurance may cover the cost of damages to a car in the event that a tree or limb should fall on it. Call your agent to ensure you have this coverage during the winter months and also to check on whether your homeowners insurance covers displacement.

2. Burst Pipes

Another common winter claim is burst pipes. A homeowner’s insurance policy may cover the cost of broken pipes if they should freeze and burst during the wintertime. However, it may not be covered if it can be proven that a home was not properly heated. To avoid this issue when filing a claim, it is important to keep it at least 65 degrees inside at all times during the winter. If you’ll be away for an extended amount of time, it is imperative to keep all drains clear of water, which can freeze and cause pipes to break, and you may want to look into turning off your water and emptying your pipes.

3. Home Fires

Colder months are known to spur an increase in the occurrence of house fires. Why is this?

“Many fires occur when holiday decorations, such as centerpieces, come into contact with a lit candle,” Mary Ahrens of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) tells the Claims Journal. Another reason for a prevalence of house fires during the winter could be the result of too many Christmas lights, or other holiday decorations plugged into one outlet.

Winter also means more people are using portable heaters. These have been known to be flammable when left on for long periods of time, or if left next to something that could easily catch fire. Unfortunately, according to a fact sheet published by the California State Firefighters’ Association, the months between December and March average the highest for house-fire related deaths, citing heating equipment as the cause.

Cooking can also be the cause of a house-fire. Cooking indoors also happens more often during the winter months, as cold weather pushes everyone inside.

Often house fires are covered under standard homeowner’s insurance policies. A traditional homeowner’s policy covers the structure of an entire house. This means, if a home is destroyed by a house fire, the policy will likely cover the costs to rebuild the entire home.

Even if a garage, shed or additional home structure is damaged, it may still be covered within a homeowner’s insurance policy. These types of buildings are most often insured for an estimated 10% of the total amount of the home policy.

It is important to purchase adequate homeowner’s insurance to be certain the entire home will be covered by a policy in the event of a house fire. Give your agent a call to ensure your limits will provide the coverage you would need in the event of a fire.

4. Collisions

Icy roads and bad conditions can herald a number of automobile-related incidents during the winter. One minute the road may be clear, and the next you could be trying to drive, or slide, your way through a blinding snowstorm.

Motor-vehicle accidents during the winter can often be caused by a variety of reasons, including slick roads and poor visibility in wintry conditions. These conditions can make objects difficult to see, and they can also make it hard for drivers to make immediate or sudden stops. It is important to give yourself plenty of room to stop when approaching an intersection or following behind another vehicle during wintery conditions. It is also important to drive slowly on snowy or icy roads, to give yourself more time to brake and prevent causing an accident.

Auto accidents aren’t just limited to hitting other cars – you could hit a pedestrian or an object. In low visibility or dark roads, it can be hard to see people or objects in your way. According to data, winter months often carry the highest number of pedestrian-related accidents. This is thought to be because these months have shorter days, with fewer hours of daylight, as well as unfavorable weather. “Adult pedestrian crashes occur more often in the winter,” says the Federal Highway Administration’s (FHA) Research and Technology sector.

In slippery conditions, running off the road could take out a mailbox or have you headed straight for a tree. According to the U.S. Department of Transportation Federal Highway Administration (FHA), 23% of crashes involving property damage are caused by adverse conditions, such as inclement weather or icy roads.

Depending on the type of accident, different aspects of your auto insurance will kick in to help cover the costs of damage. It is important to have basic auto liability insurance to cover any damages that may be done to a third-party, or any property belonging to a third-party.  You’ll also want to consider collision and comprehensive coverage, to ensure that damages to your car and other cars is covered. Give your agent a call to review exactly what and how much coverage you have and if it’s enough for the winter months.

If you are in an accident and the other person does not have insurance, depending on what state you are in, it may be valuable to have under-insured motorists within your policy. This ensures that no matter who is at-fault for an accident, your insurance company will be responsible for covering some or all of the damages.

The first thing you should do if you are involved in an automobile accident is make sure everyone is okay, pull off to a safe place beside the roadway, and call the police. If necessary, call an ambulance or emergency medical services to assist anyone who may be seriously injured. After ensuring that everyone is safe, and the police are on their way, it is best to next exchange contact information with any other persons involved in the accident. This means getting their insurance information, as well as address and telephone number.

Cold weather is conducive to a variety of home and vehicular-related insurance claims. Increased risks to homeowners could include: house fires, problems with plumbing, and damage from fallen branches or trees. Examples of auto insurance claims that become more frequent during the winter might include: rear-end collisions, overshooting an intersection, and even accidents involving pedestrians and/or third-party property.

No matter what Mother Nature’s most brutal season brings, having a comprehensive homeowner’s insurance policy, as well as automotive liability coverage, can provide the peace-of-mind you need to weather any situation. Choosing the right insurance plan will depend on your individual needs, and the state you live in. To learn more, consult your insurance agent. If you need help figuring out how to prepare your home and car for winter, download our Winter Insurance Guide:

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