Hurricanes strike, and those living in areas like Connecticut, Florida, and Alabama know all too well that it happens frequently.
In fact, the Hurricane Research Division of the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) estimates that the U.S. sees seven direct hits every four years, which averages 1.75 hurricanes per year. Florida has received 40 percent of those hurricanes, with 88 percent of major hurricanes striking Texas or Florida.
Homeowners and renters in those states affected certainly have coverage for the damage to their residences, but what about their vehicles?
Does the average auto insurance policy cover hurricane damage? After all, you have seen plenty of photographs of the aftermath of hurricanes, including vehicles impaled by trees, flipped upside down, and drowning in water.
Considering the chances are high that you will see a hurricane hit at least once a year if you live on the East Coast, understanding your coverage is critical.
Do You Have Comprehensive Coverage? Then You are Covered
Luckily, comprehensive coverage does its job when it comes to hurricanes.
In a hurricane situation, you can receive coverage through your comprehensive portion of your policy for:
- Trees landing on your vehicle;
- Strong winds and gusts that overturn your car;
- Unsecured items lost in the car;
- Water damage or flooding;
- Wind damages;
- Corrosion from salt water or long-term water exposure (such as being submerged for an extended period).
Bottom line: if the hurricane caused the damage to your vehicle, and you can prove it, your comprehensive policy should cover you.
Policy Limits Can Affect How Much Coverage You Receive
If you opted for the state minimums, it might not be enough to repair your vehicle. In most cases, cars are totaled after a hurricane, especially those complete submerged and full of sludge or those seen flying through houses.
Also, realize that your vehicle coverage is based on the market value of your car. Therefore, if you purchased a brand-new vehicle and you are underwater, you may have a few thousand out-of-pocket to pay – in addition to any applicable deductibles.
Do Not Forget about Collision
In a hurricane, the winds are blowing, streets are slick, and if you are trying to drive away from the storm, you might have a collision. While comprehensive coverage covers the flooding and flip overs, collision is what covers your vehicle if it hits something, it is hit by an object or car, or any other physical collision.
Warning: Premiums Likely to Rise after a Claim
While you have coverage available, do not be surprised if your insurance premiums rise after your claim completes. Insurers have the right to increase automobile coverage premiums after a claim – even in a hurricane situation.
More so, if you file multiple claims per year for hurricane damage, your premium will continue to rise. You may also pay a higher premium if you live in a hurricane-prone zone.
Luckily, the comprehensive claims are not as damaging to your premiums as collision. However, your insurer will keep the ping against your policy on record for three to five years. If you do not file another claim in that period, then you might notice a decrease in premiums.
You also have companies that will not raise your premium for your first claim. Therefore, do not assume that you will pay more after a single incident.
How Do You Get Payments from Your Auto Insurer for Hurricane Damage?
After the hurricane and you have had time to assess your home, you may turn to your vehicle (if you can find it). Once your vehicle is located, and you have estimates on the damage, contact your insurer and let them know that it was damaged in the recent hurricane.
You will need to provide the claim’s adjuster with details about the damage, any estimates you received, and where the vehicle was at the time of the storm.
Your policy most likely will reimburse you on the replacement value of your vehicle, which considers the depreciation of your vehicle’s value. Therefore, your car you purchased for $20,000 two years ago may only be worth $15,000 today. This means your insurer would pay you $15,000 minus any deductibles due. If you owe $17,000, then you would need to contact the lender and work out payment arrangements for the balance.
Check Your Coverage Before Assuming You’re Safe
Look at your comprehensive and collision coverage, then consider the likelihood your vehicle will be damaged in a hurricane. You may want to increase coverage for property damage too, but also comprehensive coverage if you have an expensive vehicle.
Also, realize that after the hurricane strikes, most companies will have a lockout period. This means you cannot increase your policy or change it until the lockout ends. Insurers do this to avoid people who increase policy limits and then file a claim immediately afterward.