What Do You Do When Your Car’s Involved In a Natural Disaster?
5 Tips You Need to Know Before Disaster Strikes
Natural disasters are expensive, and they’re on the rise.
Specifically, the Insurance Information Institute (III) reports that carriers paid out a total of $16.1 billion in natural disaster-related losses during 2015, which increased to $23.8 billion during 2016, and to between $36 and $40 billion during the first nine months of 2017 alone.
Considering the ever-increasing likelihood that your car will be involved in a natural disaster, we’ve outlined five quick tips that can help make sure you’re covered and know what to do in advance.
Tip #1: Understand the Basics of Your Auto Policy
Let’s briefly discuss which coverages are provided under each part of an auto policy:
Liability: If you own a vehicle, this is required by law. Main coverages include bodily injury (covers another person’s injuries if you’re at fault), and property damage (covers damage to another’s property, including their vehicle, their home, etc.).
Medical payments can cover immediate medical expenses for you and anyone in your vehicle, regardless of fault, while uninsured/underinsured motorist (UM/UIM) covers medical bills and possibly property damage (depending on the state) if someone hits you and doesn’t have any/enough insurance.
Physical Damage: This includes comprehensive coverage, which addresses losses caused by theft, fire, vandalism, weather, falling objects, animal damage, hail damage, and flooding, as well as damage to your vehicle’s glass.
On the other hand, as the name implies, collision covers collision with a fixed object, or with another car.
These coverages are not required by law, although if you have a loan on your vehicle, the bank will almost certainly require them. Combined, they typically represent the most expensive portion of an auto policy.
Tip #2: Make Sure You’re Covered Before a Natural Disaster Strikes
As you can see, if you already have a standard auto policy in force, you also have liability coverage in place. However, this might not be the case with comprehensive and collision coverage, which is where almost all damage caused by a natural disaster will fall.
As a result, if you’re concerned about coverage against a natural disaster, it’s up to you to ensure your policy has comprehensive and collision in place before a natural disaster strikes. After all, just like any time of insurance, automobile coverage is intended to work as a preventative measure.
But keep in mind that insurance companies will typically put moratoriums in place in advance of a natural disaster (an approaching hurricane, for example), where new policies can’t be written, and coverage changes can’t be made to policies. As such, it’s your responsibility to ensure you’re covered well in advance.
To do so, most modern insurers provide online access to policy documents, so you can log into your account and verify these coverages are in place. Alternately, call your agent or insurer directly, who can also provide a quick quote if they aren’t.
Tip #3: When the Time Comes, Prevention is Key
It’s often the case that natural disasters strike quickly, giving you and your family little time to prepare. But if you have the opportunity (again, such as with a hurricane), it’s up to you to ensure your vehicle is parked in the safest place possible, and that it’s secured (locked, windows rolled up, etc.).
Even after the natural disaster has passed, if you return home to find that your vehicle’s sustained damaged, it’s your responsibility to prevent further damage from occurring (e.g., covering broken windows with a tarp).
Failing to do so in either instance could jeopardize some of the coverage available under your policy.
Tip #4: Documentation is Crucial
Whether your car is submerged in water, has a large tree resting on top, or is upside down after losing a bout with high winds, make sure to document as much as possible. After all, it’s likely that your insurance carrier is about to be flooded (no pun intended) with claims, so anything you can do to speed up the process could be worthwhile.
Take as many pictures as you (safely) can, inventory any personal property items that are (or were) located in the vehicle and have been damaged beyond repair, and then reach out to the carrier as soon as you’re able.
Tip #5: Be Prepared to Pay Your Deductible(s)
Unlike liability coverage, comprehensive and collision are subject to individual deductibles that you’ll have to pay out of pocket, which typically vary between $100 and $1,000.
Considering all of the stress involved when handling the aftermath of a natural disaster, it can be easy to overlook these—sometimes hefty—additional expenses to get your vehicle back up and running.