Insuring against Winter Weather Woes

I don’t think any of us expected to be dealing with winter weather in early March, but late last week brought another round of sleet, freezing rain and snow. Winter storms caused an estimated $2.3 billion in insured losses in 2014, up from $1.9 billion in 2013, according to reports from reinsurance company Munich Re.

In addition to school closings, this wintry weather leads to other nuisances that can cause property damage. It’s important to review your auto and homeowners insurance policies to make sure you’re covered for these events. Here are some common problems Tennesseans faced recently and the types of insurance that protect against them.


Potholes are an unfortunate consequence of water seeping beneath pavement and then freezing and thawing. Anyone who has driven in the last few weeks has come across them. Hitting potholes can damage wheel rims or tires, wear out the shocks or struts or even bend a piece of the suspension and mess up the steering alignment. Hitting a pothole would considered striking an “object” by most insurers and would fall under collision coverage, which is optional. Filing a claim may not be worth it if your deductible is about the same as the cost to fix your car. Remember that if you get a flat tire and are stuck on the side of the road, many auto policies come with roadside assistance.

Car crashes

Driving on icy roads can be hazardous and should be avoided if possible. If you’re involved in a crash with another driver due to snowy and slippery roads, liability insurance would cover the incident. If you slide into a parked car, your collision coverage would cover the damage to your vehicle, and your liability coverage would pay for damage to the other car. If a tree limb falls on your car, that would be covered under the optional comprehensive portion of an auto policy.

Ice dams

These are more common in northern states, but Tennesseans have experienced their fair share this winter. Ice dams occur when heat from the attic melts ice and snow on a sloped roof. The water is unable to drain properly through the gutters and seeps into the house, causing damage to ceilings and walls. Standard homeowners insurance covers damage caused by ice dams, but you can also help prevent them by keeping your attic well insulated and ventilated.

Burst pipes

Like ice dams, damage caused by burst pipes is covered by standard homeowners insurance policies. There’s generally a requirement that that the homeowner has taken reasonable steps to prevent these losses by keeping the house warm and properly maintaining pipes and drains. Other types of flooding, like melting snow that seeps into a home from the ground up, is not covered by standard homeowners or renters insurance policies. Instead, it would be covered by flood insurance, which is provided by FEMA’s National Flood Insurance Program.

If you have the misfortune of experiencing any of these winter woes, be sure to contact your insurance advisor as soon as possible. Documenting your loss with lists, receipts or photographs will help make the claims process go smoothly. For additional freezing weather guidance, visit the Insurance Institute for Business & Home Safety.

Tim Morrell can be reached at 615-494-4525 or