Fallen trees and burst pipes: What will insurance cover amid Oregon winter storm?

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — This week’s winter storm in Oregon has brought mayhem to residents including downed trees on houses, roads, and cars, as well as burst pipes all over the Portland metro area. For disasters like this, when does insurance kick in and when does it not?

That is exactly the question KOIN 6 News posed to experts and it turns out the answer is that it entirely depends on the situation. Bottom line: when a catastrophe happens, it is wise to call the insurance company as soon as possible, let them know what happened, and they will explain the coverage and liability available.

In the case of a busted pipe, one’s homeowner insurance should generally cover the damage caused by the burst. However, the homeowner is often responsible for the cost of repairing the pipe itself, depending on where it is located in one’s home.

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What if a neighbor’s tree falls on one’s house? If it’s weather-related — and not a neglected tree — one’s insurance would be responsible for covering it, not the neighbor’s insurance. Should a tree crash through one’s garage or driveway and crush one’s car, it is the auto insurance that is on the hook.

“The homeowner’s [insurance] is not going to cover vehicles, which is a common misconception,” explained Wayne Cooley, a representative with Country Financial. “‘Oh, it was parked in my garage so my homeowner’s insurance should cover it’ — that’s just not the case.”

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It’s not necessary to file a claim in order to gather information from one’s insurance company. When disaster strikes, documenting what happened with photos and calling your insurance company, once it is safe to do so, should be the first step.

“Knowing your coverages, what you have, what your limits are, additional living expenses if you have to be out of your home, all of those things are good to know ahead of time,” explained Jason Horton, a spokesperson for Oregon’s Divison of Financial Regulation.

Suppose one files a claim but something changes, Cooley with Country Financial said clients can typically cancel a claim without a negative impact on their policy.

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