Does Car Insurance Cover Weather Damage?

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Red car under snow (Photo: @OlgaM. via Twenty20)
When weather damages your vehicle, car insurance sometimes comes to the financial rescue. You’re more likely to be protected with comprehensive coverage, but there are still many types of weather damage that car insurance does not cover. Here’s the lowdown on car insurance and weather damage claims.

What types of weather damage does comprehensive car insurance cover?

One way to understand if your car is protected from weather damage or not is to ask yourself the following question: Did mother nature wreck my car or slowly chip away at it? Generally, if the damage could not be prevented and happened suddenly, like a wreck, it will be covered under a comprehensive car insurance policy. If, on the other hand, you park out in the elements and the paint job has slowly faded, you’re likely out of luck.
Here are some common types of weather damage usually covered by comprehensive car insurance:
  • Earthquake damage
  • Hail damage
  • Fallen objects like trees
  • Forest fire or wildfire
  • Lightning strike
  • Tornado or hurricane damage
  • Flood damage
Even if your car is harmed in one of these Act of God situations, you are financially responsible if you have anything less than a comprehensive car insurance policy.
Even with comprehensive coverage, it isn’t guaranteed that you are covered in all of these. Double-check your insurance policy to be sure.

What to do if weather damages your car

Whether your car insurance covers weather damage or not, there are some universal things you should do if your car is beaten by a hurricane or squashed by a fallen power line.
Step 1: Assess the area for safety. Look to your surroundings before approaching your car. A live power line, for instance, could kill you if you step on it. If a live wire is present, keep at least 10 feet of distance and call the power company or 911. Broken glass also presents a hazard. The bottom line is: make sure it’s safe to check out your car more closely before getting too close.
Step 2: Document the damage. Take pictures or video of the damage. Do this from multiple angles, and don’t forget the interior if there’s damage there, too. Take close-up photos of areas of particular interest. This documentation can help the insurance adjuster process a claim, or it will help you get estimates for repairs. When these photos or videos are compared against the original condition of your car, it makes it easier to understand what needs to be repaired and assess if repairing the damage is even worth the effort.
Step 3: Call your insurance agent. It doesn’t hurt to call your insurance company, even if you think the weather damage isn’t covered by your policy. An agent can review your car insurance to be sure and make valuable recommendations regarding your next steps. There may be other parts of your policy that come in handy, regardless of coverage for the damage, such as free towing or discounted rentals.
These three steps will get you started in handling the aftermath of weather damage to your car. There are also a couple of things you should not do after discovering damage. First, do not drive the car or remove debris until the insurance company and authorities say it’s okay and safe to do so. Second, don’t authorize repairs without the consent of your insurance company. Either of those actions could make your car insurance policy’s coverage of weather damage null and void.