Knowing your insurance coverage is important before winter strikes

TOPEKA — With winter on its way, Kansans should check their homeowners and vehicle insurance policies to be sure they are protected against upcoming winter hazards.

Consulting with your local insurance agents about what’s covered in your policies would be a good first step. Some policies provide a broader range of coverages for winter conditions than others do.

Our staff at the Kansas Insurance Department (KID) offers these important points about winter insurance coverage:

Most homeowners policies include coverage for wind, blowing snow and the weight of ice, snow and sleet on the structure.

Damage to homes caused by falling objects such as trees is covered under most policies. However, the cost to remove limbs is usually not covered unless the tree first damages the structure.

Some policies may provide coverage from frozen pipes, as long as the damage is not a result of the homeowner’s failure to keep the home adequately heated.

If you plan to remove snow from your driveway with your own plow attached to your vehicle, you should be covered through your personal vehicle policy. Before offering to help family and friends, however, make sure you are covered if something were to happen to others’ property as you remove the snow.

There are a couple of things to know if you lose power. First, if a fallen tree is to blame for the power outage, you may be covered by your homeowners policy. Second, regarding food spoiling in your refrigerator or freezer, a homeowners or renters policy often allows for compensation for food losses, but only up to a certain (usually fairly low dollar) amount. If your deductible is equal to or greater than this amount, unless you have other losses, you probably can’t claim just the loss of the food.

Traveling during the winter can also be an adventure to prepare for. I would suggest carrying a winter emergency kit in your vehicle that contains the following: a working flashlight, a first-aid kit, a battery-powered radio, blankets, drinking water, snacks, a shovel, jumper cables, a tow rope, paper towels, and a sack of sand or cat litter. All of those could be very handy if you are facing a long drive under uncertain weather conditions.

If you have more questions about your insurance coverage, contact the KID Consumer Assistance Division representatives at 1-800-432-2484 or go online to www.ksinsurance.org to use our live chat line feature from 9 a.m. to noon and 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Winter in Kansas calls for a certain amount of precaution, and the considerations above could save you time and stress. Stay warm, and safe travels.