In late November, Buffalo, New York did its best to endure a snow storm of epic proportions. After a record seven feet of snow fell, many houses suffered extensive damage, including broken windows, cracked walls, collapsed roofs and other structural issues.
“I don’t have a house,” said Tami Diestler, whose home wrecked from the storm. “I cried. Today, as soon as I walked in here, that was it.”
Now, many Buffalonians are trying to wade through the process of filing homeowners insurance claims, which is proving to be a bit tricky.
Though most homeowners insurance policies cover storms including hail, tornado, and wind damage, other natural events like floods and earthquakes usually require additional coverage. Many homeowners are often surprised by the details of their policies.
Luckily, the majority of policies cover damage caused by the weight of ice and snow, but many Buffalo homeowners have come across one of the unfortunate, aforementioned surprises. Two events causing damage simultaneously do not get covered by insurance because of anti-concurrent causation provisions, which appear in many policies.
For example, say a policy covered both ice and snow damage. If the house was damaged by ice and snow at the same time, the policyholder wouldn’t be covered for either.
“It’s going to be a very big dilemma for adjusters, people involved, and insurance carriers,” said Steven Vanuga, regional vice president of Adjusters International Basloe, Levin and Cuccaro. “You have to go back to the basics of what is the determination of a claim. What is the definition of flood, what is the definition of collapse, what is the definition of ice water backup and water coming in the areas.”
To make matters even worse, it seems that the bigger the claim, the lengthier the review. According to a 2014 survey by Consumer Reports, about four in 10 people who tried to file a homeowners insurance claim of over $30,000 in damages ran into such issues as delays, slow payouts, and under-compensation.
Although Buffalo seems to have weathered through the worst of it, the road to recovery is steep, and covered in red tape.
Luckily, public adjusters can help. They work with clients to figure out what type of damage occurred first so that they can then collect on those damages. Though their services aren’t free, it’s worth hiring a public adjuster when dealing with a big claim, as it will likely mean a more timely, fair payout with less hassle.