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How to file an insurance claim after damage from the winter blast

The ice from the winter blast melted and many of us need to also dissolve the damage done.

SAN ANTONIO, Texas — As we thaw out, we also cleaning up the damage done, mainly from branches and trees falling from the ice. But before you do anything, make sure you document the damage you have with pictures and video. These will help determine the value of the damage.

Then call your insurance agent. Your individual policy will determine what is covered, so it is best to ask.

“The best thing to do first, is just be familiar with your policy and read over your policy,” said Daniel Armbruster of AAA Texas, which offers home and auto insurance. “It can be different for each individual, even if you have family members that are within the same company. There may be some different types of coverage.”

Make temporary repairs, if you need to.

“Make it safe and do not cause additional damage by more rain or more that might come in,” said Richard Johnson with the Insurance Council of Texas.

Save your repair receipts so you can be reimbursed.

Damage to your car will be covered under your car insurance’s comprehensive coverage.

“I’ve had it happen to me and it almost totaled my car,” said Armbruster. “A tree branch falling can do a lot of damage to your vehicle. They’re very heavy, especially if they’re loaded down with ice. If it’s an older tree, those things can do some serious damage.”

Damage to your home will be covered under your homeowner’s policy. Yet who pays if it is not your tree that did the damage?

“Just because a tree might be on your neighbor’s property and fell over and damaged your property, that’s still going to be your insurance policy that’s going to cover it,” Johnson said. “There are some caveats to that. If there was negligence in caring for the tree, if the tree was rotted and the neighbor knew it, but for the most part, it’s going to be your own insurance.”

Downed trees or limbs that did not do damage but need to be removed are probably not covered, unless you have landscaping insurance. Burst pipes will be covered. Plus, you may not be out any money for spoiled food if lost power.

“There may be limits to that, maybe $500-$600 dollars,” Johnson said.

Damage to fences, decks and sheds could also be covered if you have insurance on additional structures.

Many want to know if they file a claim will their rates go up?  Probably, but not a lot.

“A singular claim you file probably won’t impact your rates too, too much,” Johnson said. “

Also, be very careful of contractors who come to your door offering to help because not all of them are legitimate. No matter what business you use for repairs, check the rating with the Better Business Bureau, never pay in full upfront, and get an agreement in writing.

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