Are you responsible if fallen snow from the top of your vehicle causes damage to another vehicle while driving down the road? What about if a fallen tree limb from your yard damages your neighbor’s roof?
Winter storms can wreak havoc on the roadways and at homes and businesses. These FAQs from the Missouri Department of Insurance help clarify some basic liability issues:
What coverage is available for debris removal, power outages, lightning, frozen water pipes, water damage due to the breakage of frozen pipes, and the weight of ice and snow causing a roof, porch, or deck to collapse?
Debris removal for trees:
Generally speaking, the insurance company will pay up to $500 for the removal of trees from the premises if the tree damages your home or other insured property. That coverage includes removing a neighbor’s tree that fell on your property. It doesn’t matter who owns the tree, just that it causes damage to an insured building or fence.
The typical homeowners policy excludes from coverage damages from power outages unless they result directly from covered “perils” (wind, hail, lightning, etc.). For example, if lightning strikes the house and causes a power interruption, the consequent spoilage of food in a freezer is covered.
Damage caused by lightning is covered.
Frozen water pipes:
The typical policy covers repair of frozen pipes and the damage they cause. An exception can occur when the dwelling is vacant or under construction unless you use reasonable care to a) maintain heat in the building or b) shut off the water supply and drain the system and appliances of water.
Weight of ice and snow causing roof, porch, deck to collapse:
The typical homeowners policy covers damage involving collapse of an insured building or any of its parts caused by the weight of ice, snow or sleet.
What coverage must I have on my auto policy to cover repairs if ice fell on it and damaged it?
Comprehensive coverage will pay for ice falling on the auto.
Does a vehicle’s owner have responsibility for ice falling off a vehicle and damaging the car behind it? Does the vehicle owner have any duty to clean off the vehicle before it is driven down the highway?
Generally, owners whose cars are damaged file these claims under their comprehensive or collision coverage, depending on the circumstances.
What about car accidents occurring on the ice?
Missouri is a “comparative negligence” state. In other words, if you file a claim under the other driver’s liability policy, an insurer may find that both drivers were at fault and only pay partial costs for repair of your car. However, DIFP requires the insurer fully investigate the accident and document its basis for that determination.
You can read more Winter Storm FAQS at: http://insurance.mo.gov/consumers/weather/winterstormFAQ.php. And if you’re seriously injured and another party is at fault, speak with an attorney at Cook, Barkett, Ponder & Wolz to learn more about your rights.