Busted pipes lead to flood of insurance claims

USAA sees 38,000 claims in first few days

SAN ANTONIO – With the big thaw barely underway after days of wintry weather conditions, homeowners are flooding their insurance companies with claims. The Insurance Council of Texas expects hundreds of thousands of claims to be filed with losses in the billions.

USAA alone had received more than 38,000 claims by Friday morning, a number surely to mount. Most of those claims were for frozen and busted pipes.

So what’s typically covered by a home policy? That depends.

“The homeowner’s policy does cover ensuing damage and most of the time covers frozen pipes in these situations where pipes burst,” said Elizabeth Gulick, vice president of Catastrophe Experience and Shared Claims Operations.

But coverage, limits and exclusions vary depending on the individual’s policy and their insurance company.

Gulick suggests property owners inspect their plumbing by walking through the house.

“Look under cabinets, where the sinks are, around the tub and toilet. Look up at the ceiling,” she said. “Really assess what you’re hearing, what you’re seeing.”

As the frozen pipes begin to thaw, she says it’s critical to know where to find the main water cutoff valve. If there are leaks or strange noises, the water can be cut to minimize damage. Most water cutoff is at the meter, near the curb, but may also be at the water softener.

With the prolonged and frequent power outages, many people have fridges and freezers full of spoiled food. They may be able to file an insurance claim for that as well, depending on the policy.

If you have damage, document with pictures or video. Keep receipts for any related expenses.

It’s important to know your policy. Claims can be filed easily in many cases. USAA, for example, allows for fast electronic claims.

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