Author: Stacy Retterath

Insurance Commissioner Shares Tips to Help Wisconsinites Protect Against and Deal with Extreme Winter Weather

January 17, 2020 by the Wisconsin Office of the Commissioner of Insurance

Madison, Wis. — Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Mark Afable is urging Wisconsinites to take proactive steps to protect themselves and their property from damage as more extreme winter weather hits the state this weekend.

“A few simple steps before you go to bed at night can protect your home, your family, and your bank account,” said Insurance Commissioner Afable. “We’re so accustomed to cold temperatures and snowfall in Wisconsin that it can be easy to forget that severe weather can real havoc on our homes and communities. Driving a little more cautiously during icy conditions or opening you cupboards to protect the pipes in your home can make a big difference in protecting you and your family.”

OCI is sharing the following tips with Wisconsin residents ahead of the more freezing temperatures and icy conditions:

Home and Office Tips

Ice dams can form when melting snow runs down the slope of the roof and refreezes near the edge. Over time, water accumulates behind the ice dam and may seep into a home or business causing damage. In frigid temperatures, ice can form inside pipes causing water pipes to burst.

Protect yourself and your property:

·         Set your furnace to a sufficient heat level to keep pipes warm.

·         Open cupboard doors so heat can reach pipes. 

·         If your pipes burst, turn off the main water shut-off or the valve to the frozen pipe.

·         Dry the area to prevent potential mold problems.

·         Remove snow from the bottom portion of your roof using a “roof rake” or push broom. (Do not climb on the roof or chip ice away, which may cause damage to shingles and pose the risk of a fall.)

·         Keep the attic well ventilated and insulated from the rest of the house to minimize the amount of heat rising to the roof.

·         In general, water coming from the top down— such as ice dam seepage behind drywall— is covered by a standard homeowner’s policy. Water coming from the bottom up— such as an overflowing river or ground water seepage— requires a separate flood insurance policy. Your homeowner’s insurance may provide coverage for ice damage, but a roof already in poor condition may affect that coverage. Check your homeowner’s policy or talk to your agent to be sure you have adequate coverage and for information regarding any specific endorsements or riders.

Automobile Tips

When roads are covered with ice, snow, or slush even the most seasoned Wisconsin driver can find themselves slipping and sliding.  Winter hazards also include limited visibility during snowstorms, deer running into the road, and black ice. 

Protect yourself and your automobile:

·         Maintain a safe distance between your car and the car in front of you. Use care and drive slowly – if conditions are dangerous, consider waiting before getting on the road.

·         Never drink and drive.

·         Keep an emergency road kit, warm clothes, blankets, and a fully charged cellphone in your vehicle.

·         Find out the latest road conditions by going to the Wisconsin Department of Transportation website at www.511wi.gov, by calling 511, or by checking the 511 smartphone app.

·         Review your auto insurance policy for any limitations in coverage. For example, consumers who carry collision insurance without comprehensive coverage are not covered in the event of damage to vehicles as a result of hail, wind, or flooding. Additionally, make sure your coverage is adequate for your needs.

If you are in an automobile accident, remember the following tips:

·         Call the police.

·         Obtain information such as the names, addresses, telephone numbers, insurance information, and license numbers of all persons involved in the accident, as well as contact information for all witnesses.

·         Record the time, date, location, road conditions, make and year of the vehicles involved, insurance information, apparent damage and injuries and your version of what happened.

·         Call your insurance agent. Make sure to have your policy number and other relevant information on hand. Also be sure you cooperate fully with the insurance company and ask your agent what documents, forms, and data you’ll need to file a claim.

·         Take notes each time you talk to your insurance company, agent, lawyers, police, or anyone else involved in the situation. Write down dates, times, names and what you talked about, as well as any decisions or promises made.

·         Save any receipts and bills, including those from a car rental or hotel room if the accident happens outside of your town.

Consumers with an insurance question or complaint can call 1-800-236-8517 or visit https://ociaccess.oci.wi.gov/complaints/public/ to file a complaint online.

Commissioner Ted Nickel Statement on Summer Storms in Wisconsin

Madison, WI—Wisconsin Insurance Commissioner Ted Nickel expressed concern for the citizens of Wisconsin facing property damage and floods after storms in recent weeks.

“Unfortunately, this summer, many individuals throughout the state of Wisconsin have experienced the stress and pain from heavy storms as their homes and business have been damaged,” said Commissioner Nickel. “Make sure to check your insurance coverage and remember OCI and other state agencies are here to help.”

Typical homeowner’s policies usually provide coverage for damage that is the result of severe weather such as damage from hail or high winds. An exception is that damage caused by flooding is typically not covered. For protection against floods, you must purchase a separate policy from the National Flood Insurance Program.

Damage resulting from sewer backup and sump pump problems is also rarely covered in homeowner’s policies but an endorsement providing that coverage may be purchased and added to the policy. Endorsements are added to insurance policies in order to provide additional coverage to the homeowner’s policy.

Most comprehensive auto policies provide coverage for vehicles damaged in a flood. However, if you purchased collision-only coverage, you may not have coverage.

Commissioner Nickel suggests the following tips in dealing with storm aftermath:

  • Notify your insurance agent or insurance company as soon as possible to begin the claim process. Make sure you provide a telephone and/or e-mail address where you can be reached.
  • Pay attention to local news to find out if state and federal agencies are available on-scene to help with relief efforts.
  • Separate damaged items from undamaged items.
  • Make a detailed list of all damaged or lost personal property. It will help to take photos of the damage. Your adjuster will need evidence of the damage and damaged items. Do not throw out any damaged property without your adjuster’s agreement. If local officials require the disposal of damaged items before the insurance company’s claims adjuster can inspect the damages, take photos and keep a swatch or other sample of damaged items for the adjuster (e.g., cut swatches from carpeting, curtains, chairs).
  • Contact your insurance company again if an adjuster has not been assigned to you within several days.
  • Keep a file containing all the claim documentation including telephone logs, photos, estimates and receipts.
  • To avoid scams, make sure to take your time. If you feel pressured to sign a contract quickly, take a step back and investigate.

The Office of the Commissioner of Insurance (OCI) Web site has many helpful publications including Consumer’s Guide To Homeowner’s Insurance and Personal Property Home Inventory. OCI also offers several publications that may help you as you sort through the claims process, including Settling Property Insurance Claims and Documents and Records, which provides a list of documents that will need to be replaced if they have been destroyed and whom to contact for replacement. All publications are available on our Web site at oci.wi.gov/Pages/Consumers/ConsumerPublications.aspx and may also be ordered free from the agency.

 

Source: https://oci.wi.gov/Pages/PressReleases/20170712SummerStorms.aspx