Tornado Damage Insurance Claims: The Twist May Be in the Policy Language

Indiana has just been clobbered – again – by fierce, widespread tornadoes. The website of the National Weather Service has excellent data you can review to track the history of the storms and the damage they caused in your area. For example, visit: track dataWhen the time comes to finalize your claim with your commercial or homeowners insurance carrier for the damage caused to your property by these strong storms, there are some common pitfalls to be aware of about what is or may be covered.

For example, depending on the scope or extent of the damage to your property, there may be additional dollars over and above the limits of your property coverage available to pay for the cost of debris removal. Policies provide this coverage in different ways and it is important to read and understand how your policy works when you are negotiating with your insurer. Here is one example of how a property policy may provide debris removal coverage:

Debris Removal Language

Language like this appears simple enough on first reading, but look again.  Let’s say you incurred expense removing debris following a storm, and assume the cost of removing the debris was actually more than the damage caused to your structure.  This policy appears to limit the available dollars for debris removal to 25% of the “amount we pay for the direct physical loss of or damage to Covered Property.”  The capital letters means “Covered Property” is defined somewhere else in the policy.  Defined as what?  The building?  The building and outbuildings?  It is important to know.  Also, when this policy provides 25% of the amount of direct loss or damage “plus” the “deductible in this policy applicable to that loss or damage” does that mean 25% of the deductible or 100% of the deductible?  Again — this is important to know when you are settling with your insurance company.

What if all you have is trees down, but (thankfully) they missed your house?  Homeowners policies often provide limited coverage for damage to trees and shrubs. The straight-line winds that accompanied recent storms brought down many, many trees – both living and dead – and the cleanup cost can be staggering. Yet, your homeowner’s policy from that “good neighbor” company that is “on your side” may only provide you with very limited policy proceeds for the cleanup of trees, and then only under very limited circumstances.

Here is some typical language from a standard homeowner’s policy:

We will also pay your reasonable expense, up to $1000, for the removal from the “residence premises” of:

1)  Your tree(s) felled by the peril of Windstorm or Hail or Weight of Ice, Snow or Sleet; or

2)  A neighbor’s tree(s) felled by a Peril Insured Against under Coverage C; provided the tree(s):

3) Damage(s) a covered structure;

4) Does not damage a covered structure, but:  a) Block(s) a driveway on the “residence premises” which prevents a “motor vehicle”, that is registered for use on public roads or property, from entering or leaving the “residence premises”; or  b) Block(s) a ramp or other fixture designed to assist a handicapped person to enter or leave the dwelling building.

The $1000 limit is the most we will pay in any one loss regardless of the number of fallen trees. No more than $500 of this limit will be paid for the removal of any one tree.

Say that again?!

If you need assistance untangling the language of your policy and working to resolve your claim with your insurance company, the policyholder attorneys of Parr Richey are always ready to help. Call Mike Schultz or Jim Buddenbaum toll free at 888-337-7766.

Storm Damage Claims

Today’s storms in Illinois and Indiana have been classified by the National Weather Service as a “PDS” — Particularly Dangerous Situation.  Many of the storm cells blew through the area at speeds near 70 mph.  These storms are known to have caused significant damage in both Illinois and Indiana.

In the aftermath of a large storm, you may need to know what coverage you have for storm damage.


A typical homeowners insurance policy includes the following coverage parts:

Coverage A – Damage to your home

Coverage B – Damage to other structures including garage, deck or swimming pool

Coverage C – Loss or damage to the contents of your home

Coverage D – Loss of use in case your home is not inhabitable

Coverage E – Personal liability to third parties

Coverage F – Medical payments to third parties

Following a storm, the most likely coverages you may need to consider are A, B, C, and D.  Most typical homeowners policies cover damage caused by tornadoes or thunderstorms, but there are some conditions and exclusions you must be aware of when you have a loss or a claim.

Business Owners and Commercial Policies

Most business owners and commercial policies also cover storm damage.  Again, there are conditions and exclusions that must be considered in the event of a loss or claim.  In addition to coverage for damage to the commercial building or contents, many policies provide coverage for business income losses that occur during the time the business is unable to operate, as well as coverage for extra expenses incurred in taking certain actions such as temporarily relocating the business or taking actions to minimize the amount of business income lost during the recovery period.

There are many potential pitfalls for homeowners and business owners who suffer a loss and need to make a claim.  It is important for the insured to have a good working understanding of the types of coverage provided in their policy, whether the policy pays actual cash value or replacement cost, how claims are to be submitted, and how losses are to be paid.

For claim help, contact the property damage litigation partners at Parr Richey.

Time To Review Your Policy

Fires.  Floods.  Tornadoes.

Have you ever carefully read the insurance policy you paid for to protect your business or your home?  Do you know the limits of coverage, the conditions of payment, or the exclusions that may apply?

National news coverage of the devastation in Oklahoma and Texas and local coverage of recent catastrophic fires and flooding reminds us that many times homeowners and business owners believe they have coverage when, in fact, their insurance company may have a different view.  Now is the time to re-read your policy with your insurance agent or your attorney to make sure you have the coverage you need.  In Indiana, the general rule is that an insured has a duty to learn the contents of his or her insurance policy himself, even though it may become necessary to have some third person read the contents to him.  Penwell v. Western and Southern Life Insurance Co. (1985), Ind. App., 474 N.E.2d 1042, 1044 (quoting Ohio Casualty Insurance Co. v. Rynearson (7th Cir.1974), 507 F.2d 573, 581).

Now is a very good time to review your policy.  For more information on this critically important subject, contact us.