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Catastrophe Claims

Imagine that one morning after a severe storm, you walk outside to find that strong winds sent debris flying onto your car and cracked your windshield.

Will your car insurance company pay to repair the damage? Whether your car insurance company reimburses you for catastrophe claims depends on whether you have comprehensive coverage and what your company decides about the circumstances of the damage.

Are Catastrophes Covered by Car Insurance?

A catastrophe is also known as an “act of God” or “act of nature” because it refers to events that you cannot control. Damage from catastrophes is covered by comprehensive coverage (an optional coverage).

Comprehensive car insurance coverage pays for incidents that are not related to collisions and often include:

  • Fires.
  • Earthquakes.
  • Wind, hailstorms, and flooding.
  • Theft and vandalism.
  • Animal collisions like deer and moose.

However, not all catastrophe-related damage is considered an “act of God” and eligible for a claim. The damage becomes an “act of man” if it is preventable e.g., if there is an ice storm and you choose to drive in it, you might not be covered.

Speak with your car insurance agent to learn when damage from a natural disaster would be covered by your car insurance.

Personal Safety Comes First

Always be prepared for a catastrophe. Even if you don’t have any advance notice, taking the following steps to prepare for the unforeseeable will go a long way in protecting against a natural disaster:

  • Keep a first-aid kit at home.
  • Store extra blankets, extra toilet paper, a battery-operated radio, flashlights, and extra batteries.
  • Keep bottled water and non-perishable food at home. It’s also a good idea to keep a gallon of water and some snacks in your vehicle.
  • Keep cash on hand in case the power goes out and stores are not accepting credit cards.

Turn off the circuit breakers in your home and close the doors and windows before a storm hits. You can also fill the bathtubs with water for after the storm.

Preparing Your Car for a Catastrophe

If forecasters are predicting a severe weather event such as a hurricane, thunderstorm, or hailstorm, park your car in a garage, if possible.

If flooding is expected, move it to higher ground. If strong winds are likely, park it far from trees and telephone poles.

Do not plan to drive your car until the catastrophe has passed.

If your car is damaged when you are driving it in catastrophic conditions, your insurance company may decide that the damage is due to an “act of man” and refuse to cover it.

What to Do After a Catastrophe

After a catastrophe:

  • Say secure in your home, or outside of the area if you have evacuated, until you receive news that it is safe to go outside or return home.
  • Inspect your vehicle for damage.
  • Take pictures of the damage and the scene.
  • Contact your claims officer.
    • You may need to bring your car for inspection.

NOTE: In the event of a major disaster that affects the whole neighborhood or region, your car insurance company may be open extra hours to inspect vehicle damage.

Do You Need Comprehensive Coverage?

No state requires drivers to have comprehensive coverage. You need to decide for yourself if comprehensive coverage is worthwhile and what level of coverage you want. However, comprehensive coverage can be of great value when it comes to damage to your vehicle from catastrophes.

Many states require that you get liability and collision car insurance coverage to cover the other car and driver’s expenses should you cause an accident. The rest of the states are no-fault states, in which your insurance company reimburses you for your car’s damage regardless of who caused the collision.

When to Say Yes to Comprehensive

You will probably want to get comprehensive coverage if your car is relatively new and/or you have a loan or lease on it.

Also, if you live in an area that is very prone to natural disasters, it might be necessary to purchase this coverage.

When to Consider Saying No

On the other hand, if your car is old and/or is low-value, your premium for comprehensive coverage might be more than the car is worth, so comprehensive coverage would not be worthwhile to you.

Contact your car insurance company to find out which catastrophes are covered and determine what coverage is the best policy for you.

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