Business

Tips and help on dealing with storm-related insurance claims

As Washingtonians start to recover from this week's snow- and ice storm, the state's insurance regulator offered some tips on insurance claims.

"We encourage people to start with their agent or insurer. But our staff can often help with denied claims, delayed payments and confusing policy language," said Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler. "And although we're also recovering from the storm – our main buildings are without power – people can still e-mail us or file complaints online."

The e-mail address is AskMike@oic.wa.gov. To file a complaint online, go to www.insurance.wa.gov.

Here are some tips and frequently-asked questions about insurance claims:

Will filing a claim make my insurance premiums go up?

It may. So it's a good idea to first weigh the cost of the repair, your deductible, and the possibility that you'll pay higher insurance rates in the future before deciding whether to file a claim.

My neighbor's tree fell on my house. Whose insurance pays?

Your homeowners will often pay for the damage, even if it was your neighbor's tree. And you'll be responsible for the deductible. Sometimes your insurer can get the neighbor's insurance to pay, if it can be shown that the neighbor was at fault. But that can be hard to prove.

My car was damaged. Can I choose which repair shop to take it to?

Yes, you can generally choose which shop to take the car to. But the shop and insurer must agree on price. If they can't agree, you could be stuck paying the difference.

A tree fell on my car. Am I covered?

Yes, as long as you have comprehensive auto coverage.

We lost power and my freezer thawed. Am I covered?

Yes, most homeowners policies cover this. But check if there is a deductible.

Trees and branches fell in my yard. Will my homeowners insurance pay for cleanup?

Probably not. Standard homeowners policies don't cover tree removal and cleanup unless the tree fell on the home, car, garage, etc.

A tree fell on my carport. Will my insurance cover that?

Yes, homeowners coverage will usually cover that kind of damage.

I'm worried about flooding. Does my homeowners policy cover flooding.

No. A standard homeowners policy does not cover flooding. Flood coverage typically requires a separate policy. Many homeowners get this coverage through the federally run National Flood Insurance Program.

My television was ruined by a power surge when the electricity came back on. Will my insurance cover that?

Most homeowners policies do cover appliances and electronics ruined by a power surge. But consider your deductible. In some cases – particularly for low-cost or old equipment – it may not be worth filing a claim.

People with insurance questions or complaints can contact the state insurance commissioner's office at 1-800-562-6900 or e-mail AskMike@oic.wa.gov. You also can file a complaint 24/7 at www.insurance.wa.gov.

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