Weather Related Damage

Now that spring is here, the possibility of severe weather is a constant threat.  Here in the south we have just gotten through three severe storm episodes in the last two weeks.  With the severe storms come the storm claims.  It should be noted that whenever a claim is submitted to a carrier, the damage has to be weather related.  In other words, the cause of the damage has to be connectable to the resulting damage.  Although this point might seem obvious, there are those people that don’t realize what this statement means.  Just because your a/c goes out after several days of rain doesn’t mean that it was struck by lightning.  Unless lightning is proven to have been present when the failure occurred (and it is possible), the failure was most likely caused by something else.  We recently investigated an instance where a homeowner claimed that his heat pump expired as a result of ice that formed during a winter storm in February.  Upon further investigation, it was determined that the breakers that controlled power to the heating side of the unit were old and worn to the point where nuisance tripping was occurring.  As a result, the unit would not operate for more than a few minutes before shutting down.  The condition of the breakers is shown in the photograph below.  It is also understood that not everyone can be their own technician but, remember, if your claim is submitted on the basis of weather damage, the damage has to be seen as sudden and accidental.  But, more importantly, the damage has to be “connectable” to the damage causing event.  It is further suggested that when a weather related incident is encountered, it is documented as thoroughly as possible. Examples of documentation include taking photographs of ice crushing pipes, burn marks left behind after a lightning strike, wind tearing off roofing shingles, flood water level marks left on walls.  Remember to make notes and document all conversations with people involved as well.        

Cracked and Worn Breakers

Weather Related Damage

At this time of year when storms are prevalent, especially in the southeast, often times it seems as if lightning damage occurs automatically.  The loss of an air conditioning system, computer server or telephone service can be attributed to lighting or a power surge.  In point of fact, the damage may or may not be weather related.  In order to determine if the damage is weather related, one of the tools used by both forensic consultants and claims adjusters is a lightning strike report.  These reports are sold by companies that specialize in reporting weather related data.  Home and business owners should take note of the fact that if they feel that their claim is lightning related, it would behoove them to obtain a lightning strike report before reporting their claim.  That way when the adjuster or expert arrives to assess the damage, the owner’s report can be reviewed and used as evidence to corroborate the owner’s claim.  Currently, the attitude is if lightning strikes within five miles of the damage location, then the damage can be attributed to the lightning strike.  However, this is not a hard and fast rule.  Once lightning hits the ground, it can go anywhere.  Tracing the path is often difficult if not impossible.  As a result, if the claim cannot be disproven, the benefit of the doubt has to be given to the insured. The same arguments can be made when roof damage occurs and hail is the suspected cause.  Home and business owners can also get reports on wind velocities, rain fall and temperature changes.  The reports can be very useful in times when tornados, flooding and freezing occur.  It should also be noted that these reports can be used to disprove an insureds claim.   

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