Terry Herr, CFP®, CLU
If you’re like many Americans, you’ve been hit by a hefty dose of winter recently. Even if you’re used to snowstorms, heavy rains and bitter cold, there are things you can do now to prepare for or prevent a weather-related insurance claim.
Almost one in 50 homes experiences water damage or damage caused by freezing every year - with the cost of repair averaging $11,650.1 Whether you’re experiencing unexpected snow in the South or thunderstorms in the Northeast, the danger of water damage is prevalent across the country.
As winter continues on, keep these four tips in mind to stay safe and (hopefully) avoid a costly insurance claim.
Tip #1: Avoid Side Roads
If you have to drive, avoid side roads that may contain long-lasting ice or snow. Side roads may be sheltered by the shade of homes or trees, making snow and ice last longer. Plus, snow plows tend to hit heavily used roads first - such as highways and main streets in cities and towns.
If you see an accumulation of water on the street, turn around or go around the water if safe to do so. Driving through a flooded area can cause serious damage to your vehicle and can be hazardous to your safety.
Tip #2: Put Emergency Supplies in Your Vehicle
Some auto insurance companies will offer 24/7 roadside assistance as a part of your policy, which may come in handy during periods of inclement weather. If your vehicle becomes stranded in the snow, there are a couple of things you’ll want to have on hand as you await assistance.
Emergency supplies can be kept in your trunk, and they may be used to keep you warm and nourished or help you get “unstuck” from the snow.
Some emergency supplies to consider keeping in your car include:
- Ice scraper
- Foldable snow shovel
- Snacks & bottled water
- Battery-supplied phone charger
- Cat litter or sand (used for gaining traction in snow and ice)
Tip #3: Watch for Cracks
If you have small cracks in your driveway, walkways or sidewalks, you’ll want to keep an eye on them during winter - especially after heavy precipitation. Rain or snow (as it melts) can seep into small cracks in concrete or asphalt. As water freezes and turns to ice, it expands. If you’re experiencing below-freezing temperatures in your area, this could cause cracks to fill with water, freeze and get bigger. Keeping your walkways shoveled and salted can make it easier to spot these issues before they become larger (more costly) problems down the line.
Tip #4: Shovel for Safety
Whether it’s a couple of inches or several feet, homeowners are responsible for keeping sidewalks and walkways clear on their property. States and regions have their own regulations regarding snow removal, with some requiring that sidewalks be shoveled within several hours of the snow stopping.
Neglecting to shovel and salt your property can be grounds for a lawsuit, should serious injury result from someone slipping and falling on an icy area. The best way to avoid injury and a costly court case is to be aware of your city’s rules regarding snow removal and follow them accordingly.
Being prepared and responsible can help you get through the winter blues. It can also help you avoid costly mistakes, headaches and potential injury. As you work to keep your vehicle and home weather-proof this winter, don’t forget to double-check your homeowners insurance policy and auto policy and make any updates or adjustments you need to stay well-covered.
This content is developed from sources believed to be providing accurate information. It may not be used for the purpose of avoiding any federal tax penalties. Please consult legal or tax professionals for specific information regarding your individual situation. The opinions expressed and material provided are for general information, and should not be considered a solicitation for the purchase or sale of any security.