SAN ANTONIO — We survived the frigid temperatures but most of our food did not. You might not be out the money.
“Smaller things like the food that you may have in your home that may have spoiled because the power went out,” said Stephen Kates the insurance analyst with Bankrate.com. “That is something that you can potentially get reimbursed for.”
Your homeowners insurance may cover the cost. Many pipes also probably got a bad break in the winter weather.
“It’s really a good thing to do take time to walk around the house and do an assessment as we start to thaw,” said Elizabeth Gulick, the vice president of claims operations for USAA.
Gulick said to know where your main water shut-off valve is so you can cut water quickly to prevent further damage. (See this video on how to turn it off.)
“Unfortunately those cut-off valves are not in a standard place for all homes,” she said. “They are usually outside. They may be in the front of the house if you’re in a residential area coming from the street. They’ll usually have a cover that’ll be metal. Sometimes if you have a water softener, it may be inside the home.”
You will be in a hurry to get damaged pipes fixed fast, but do not rush to hire someone for the job. Here is how to find a reputable company:
“Make sure they are bonded,” said Gulick. “Make sure they have a record or reviews on them. You can look up the Better Business Bureau. There are many sources out there, but normally what we see is if they are promising a lot really fast or asking for money upfront, a lot of times those are flags to really dig deeper and assess that company and their reputation.”
Cars might be another causality. Check your car insurance policy. Collision insurance will cover you if you had an accident because of ice. Liability insurance will cover damages to someone else’s property or medical coverage. Comprehensive insurance might also protect you during winter weather.
“That’s going to deal with anything to do with your vehicle that doesn’t involve driving. Hail damage, water damage, a tree falling on it, anything that might happen when you are not in the car moving is where comprehensive is going to come into play,” said Kates.
You may have to wait to file your claim until electricity returns, but do not wait to collect documentation.
“Whether its potential issues or current issues, pictures, video, even notes and all of those things are going to help you in the event that you have to make a claim,” said Kates. “Take pictures periodically to keep track of what those things are.”
Gulick has a similar recommendation.
“We ask they take pictures,” she said. “We ask that they save any receipts for any items they might need to bury or want to buy so that we can consider that later in the claim.”
File your insurance claim as soon as you are able. Contact your agent to find out what coverage can help you repair and replace items so the winter blast does not leave you broke.