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Top 10 winter insurance questions

By Jay MacDonald · Bankrate.com
Tuesday, November 30, 2010
Posted: 10 am ET

Old Man Winter makes his grand entrance this time every year, blowing in like a drunken uncle with just enough mayhem and mischief to disrupt best-laid holiday plans. If you're unsure how your home insurance or auto insurance will hold up under winter's onslaught, here's a pop quiz on coverage for winter-related events:  

1. Your home lost power for several days due to an ice storm. Will your home insurance pick up the tab for the spoiled contents of your freezer?

2. Your SUV hit a patch of ice and slid into another vehicle. Will your auto insurance cover it?

3. An ice storm caused your carport to collapse on top of your car. Will your home insurance pay up? Or your auto insurance?

4. If someone slips on the icy sidewalk in front of your house, can you be held responsible?

5. You have a lot of relatives in town. What if one of them borrows the last car in the driveway and backs into a neighbor's car?

6. Your pipes froze! Will your home insurance cover it?

7. A branch from your tree damaged your neighbor's house during a recent storm. Are you liable?

8. Will your auto insurance suffer if your uncle borrows your car and gets a ticket for driving while intoxicated?

9. A prolonged ice storm forced your family to spend several days in a motel. Will your home insurance reimburse you?

10. Overhanging ice fell on your vehicle. Will your auto insurance cover it?

 Pencils down. Here are the answers:

1. It depends. Most home insurance policies exclude power outages from covered damages unless the outage was caused by a covered peril, such as wind, hail, lightning, etc. Typically, to qualify for "additional living expense" payments, your home would have to suffer an insured loss; loss of power is not sufficient. However, since the average home policy deductible is $250 or $500, unless your freezer was filled with filets, it will likely be your nickel anyway.

2. Yes. Your collision coverage will pay for damage to your vehicle, less your deductible, and the liability and medical portions of your auto insurance will cover damage and passenger injuries in the vehicle you hit, up to your policy limits.

3. A typical home insurance policy covers the collapse of any part of an insured building due to the weight of ice, snow or sleet.

4. Yes, depending on local snow-removal statutes. Your medical and liability coverage would come into play in this case.

5. Since auto insurance covers the vehicle, the car owner's insurance would provide primary coverage. If the loaner was uninsured, the driver's policy may provide coverage.

6. Frozen pipes and the damage they cause are typically covered by a standard home policy unless you left the home vacant for a period and failed to heat it or shut off the water.

7. No. Your home insurance covers your home, not your neighbor's. They would file a claim under their policy.

8. Your auto insurance would typically not be affected if your uncle is merely ticketed for a violation. But if he has an accident while intoxicated, your insurer may increase your premium or not renew your policy.

9. Not unless your home was rendered "uninhabitable" by a named peril. Most home insurance policies exclude power outages.

10. Yes, provided you have comprehensive coverage.

Thanks to the insurance commissioners of Mississippi, New Hampshire, Oregon and Washington State for help with these answers.

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