Fighting The Polar Vortex: What You Need To Know

cold weather car insurance

Photo from Rick Schwartz

The ongoing “polar vortex” has swept across much of the country, affecting states in the central, eastern, and southern United States. Over the last few days, many places unaccustomed to single-digit weather have found themselves coping with the fallout, both at home and on the road. Read their full article here.

According to Dr. Robert Hartwig, president of the Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.), “Severe winter weather is the third-largest cause of insured catastrophe losses, after hurricanes and tornadoes,” accounting for 7.1 percent of all insured catastrophe losses between 1993 and 2012 and causing payouts of $27.8 billion (or $1.4 billion per year, inflation-adjusted) over the same period of time.

(Hurricanes and tropical storms account for 40 percent and tornadoes 36 percent of the costliest natural disasters.)

“While most winter storm losses occur in northern and mountainous regions of the United States, this week’s polar vortex threatens millions of homeowners in the south who may be unprepared for extreme cold,” Hartwig added.


What’s Covered?

Luckily, much of the damage caused by winter weather is covered under a standard homeowners or auto insurance policy. Such claims might include the following:

Burst pipes and ice dams: According to I.I.I., these two common side effects of cold weather are covered under most standard policies. While most are familiar with the burst pipe-winter weather connection, some might not be as familiar with ice dams. These are created from a condition in which water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and is instead redirected into the house, resulting in damage to walls and ceilings. While you don’t have much to worry about if this happens to you, you may have to demonstrate a history of reasonable prevention (i.e. keeping the house warm and properly maintaining drains, gutters, and pipes. Pool owners should also continue to run their filtration systems overnight.

Falling tree limbs: When snow and ice form on trees, they can begin to weigh down limbs and cause breakage to occur. If a tree is especially high up, the resulting fall can cause significant damage to a house or other insured structure. Not only would damage be covered under a standard homeowners policy, but cleanup and removal is usually a part of the package, “generally up to $500,” I.I.I. notes.

Collapses: Trees aren’t the only things susceptible to damage due to the weight of ice and snow. Sometimes collapses can occur to the house itself, racking up thousands in repair needs to the structure and the contents inside. Check your policy to be sure, but this is usually covered as well.

Property damage liability: This coverage product — part of your auto insurance policy — will cover accidents caused by you or someone driving the car with your permission should hazardous roadways lead to an accident. Damage to other cars, other structures — you name it, it’s covered.

Collisions: Many auto insurance policies will pay for the repairs to your car that come about from collision with another car or object. Damage caused due to potholes — a common result from icy conditions — is also part of the safety net.

Natural damage caused to your automobile: Heavy winds, falling tree limbs/ice, and flooding, are all protected under a comprehensive policy.



If you’ve experienced damages due to the polar vortex, don’t panic. Many of the coverages that you pay for each month offer valuable protections that can get you back on your feet and help you ride out the cold days ahead.

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